The Naff Nic Season: Deadfall (1993)

Rating 18, 98 Minutes

 

You look at the cast list (Nicolas Cage, James Coburn, Peter Fonda, Michael Biehn), you look at the director (Christopher Coppola, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola) and you think that maybe this film will make a reasonably strong attempt at being more than decent. But no, Deadfall manages to be an atrocious mess of a film on every single conceivable level.

 

Joe (Biehn) is part of a family of con artists and after a sting gone wrong in which he kills his own father (Coburn), he vows to carry out his dad’s dying wish; to steal back some valuables from his uncle Lou (also played by Coburn for god’s sake). Lou turns out to be a trickster himself and Joe finds himself drawn into his uncle’s schemes before becoming completely out of his depth.

 

So far, so meh.

 

I’m going to be bold here and say Francis Ford Coppola’s ability to write a cracking screenplay didn’t quite flow down the family tree to his nephew Christopher. Francis has seemingly hoarded that particular genetic disposition for himself and his own branch. Deadfall’s internal logic is horribly flawed. For a film about a bunch of con artists everyone is absolutely dense as concrete, Joe in particular seems to be utterly oblivious to the fact that he might be getting played by his dodgy old uncle. Although he is sidetracked in rather spectacular fashion by Cage’s Eddie, a bizarrely tanned, moustached coke fiend with an accent so bizarre it sounds like Cage is practicing LOUD Spanish while gargling mouthwash.

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Cage steals this film. Of that there is no doubt. His performance in this film is pure Cage madness. There is top notch yelling of complete nonsense, ‘WELL, VIVE LA FUCKING FRANCE, MAN! ‘ some hardcore cocaine sniffing, an appalling wig which apparently Cage picked out himself, a very Ronseal-esque skin tone which only highlights the shoddy nature of his hairpiece, and some strange line delivery. I’m not quite sure what exactly Cage was going for here. Sometimes OTT works, see Pacino in Scarface for example, but Cage’s histrionics are so out of place in Deadfall it knocks the film on its head, almost drowning the film in a pool of Cage based insanity, although this probably would have been the preferable outcome instead of the hackneyed lump of dump we were left with.

 

Coburn runs him as close as is humanly possible, showing up towards the end as dastardly uncle Lou, with a shocking dye job that is enough to make you despair that such a quality actor has been reduced to camping around in this cesspit. Poor old Michael Biehn is rendered a mere spectator. He tries his best to keep things grounded and a bit more gritty than the parading peacocks of Cage and Coburn, but is completely overshadowed by the scenery-chewing villains. The audience’s heads are turned away from Joe’s plot and journey, and left with a bad case of whiplash as Cage steams into the film, roaring away about 15/20 minutes in. You end up not giving a royal shite about Joe, you just want to spend the next 40 minutes or so trying to work out what the hell Cage is saying. And then when he’s gone the film slides in stale, cliche ridden banality.

 

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Deadfall does not reach the depressing depths of badness like Left Behind did. At least in here we find Cage invigorated and energised, instead of seemingly resigned to his fate of shit films and death like he was in Left Behind. For that reason, it rates higher in my estimation by the width of a pubic hair. But Deadfall is NOT a good film. The Cage-less scenes are intensely boring, the director’s attempts at creating intense scenes through dark lighting and use of shadows just make you squint and wonder why everything is brown (probably because shit is brown which this film is (maybe that’s the deeper meaning we’ve all been looking for)), the counter intuitive actions of its protagonist are just embarrassing and the final showdown couldn’t have been more of a damp squib if you had drowned it in a bath.

 

Thanks to this godforsaken website and my own raging stupidity, I have seen this film twice now. Two times too many if you ask me. I thought maybe second viewing would have allowed to see things to this film that I hadn’t seen the first time round, maybe some shafts of light showing through this blackened turd of a film. Alas not.

 

Deadfall is a true exercise in Hollywood nepotism. Christopher Coppola’s family connections is probably the only reason he was given the money and time to make this utter parcel of shite. Unsurprisingly, it flopped at the box office, bringing in a paltry $18,000 compared to its budget of $10million. According to my research for this Naff Nic Challenge, it is rated higher than The Wicker Man which is the biggest lie since halitosis. At least in The Wicker Man, Cage’s weirdness meshed in with the general angle of the film and provided some comedy gold for years to come (those memes don’t just make themselves). Deadfall is cinematic ebola. Avoid at all costs.

 

IMDB Rating: 3.7

My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ ( i wish there was a poo symbol)

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