Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson, Kate Mara, Treat Williams
Written by: Zach Dean
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 10th May 2013
Dead is a total curiosity. Advertised as an out-and-out action thriller, the type you’d expect to find on any DVD shelf among the other low grade thrillers, it is a far more complex and interesting film than it has any right to be.
Addison and Lisa have just been involved in a casino robbery and are heading out of the snowy town when their car crashes. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, the brother and sister pairing decide to split up, heading in different directions. Addison comes across a shack where a violent husband is terrorising his wife and child. Addison steps in. Lisa, on the other hand, meets Jay, a former boxer with a violent temper, just released from prison and heading to his family for Thanksgiving.
With the police discovering the crashed car and the body of a policeman Addison killed, they start to close the net around the two, with local cop, Hannah, defining her father, the chief police officer, desperate to find them, the criminal siblings are going meet but in an unexpected place.
So what makes this such a curiosity? It is far from the usual slam-bang action thriller but a film with different layers from the complexity of the characters to the strands of the story building towards a climax that, while sometimes predictable, is always engrossing. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who made the brilliant The Counterfeiters, handles all these strands with an air of authority, never once making it flippant or tacky but making us believe in the tale.
Sprinkled with violent acts that, while sometimes graphic, are never unnecessary. They help the story move along. Often than not the violence is there for the sake of shaking things up and making things more exciting. Here they have a point. Addison’s psychotic actions, for example, aren’t always for the wrong reason and he is often restrained. The child he rescues from the abusive father, for example, calls him an angel. Maybe not a guardian angel it is unexpected of a killer to be so caring.
The film builds nicely to a tense final act, with a satisfactory ending and the characters are genuinely fascinating. Addison and Lisa’s relationship is close to incestrious, the wall built up by Jay and his father, even Hannah’s determination to prove herself are all part of what makes this film so much more intriguing.
The performances are also very good. Eric Bana is always better when he is playing slightly deranged and dangerous characters and here he is given the opportunity to play a man in Addison who can switch from the nice to the insane in the blink of an eye. Olivia Wilde, as his sister, is slowly becoming more than just a pretty face and while her character isn’t as detailed as Addison, she still is a very watchable actress who could use some stronger roles to really prove her talents.
It’s always nice to see veterans like Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson and so we get a rare treat from the pair as they play Jay’s parents, in roles that they make more interesting and detailed in the short time on screen.
I didn’t think I would like this film and I guess, sadly, that it will disappear as quickly as it came, which is a pity. It’s not perfect in any way but it’s a far better bet than most thrillers of late and deserves a bigger audience than it is going to get. If you can’t get in to see Star Trek and Mud isn’t your cup of tea then check this out. You might be pleasantly surprised.