Mister Alfredson, you could have saved it. We gave you all the tools — a star-studded cast, a blockbuster best-selling Scandinavian murder novel by Jo Nesbø, and three time Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. So why is “The Snowman” such a jumbled nonsensical mess?
Director Tomas Alfredson has copped to the fact that scheduling issues were a big part of the problem, which doesn’t excuse what ends up on screen. It’s a film that deals with extreme, distressing violence against women, and that proper care wasn’t taken to make sure that this story was told the right way is troubling.
“The Snowman” has everything (just not a coherent plot): creepy abortion doctors, human trafficking, really bad Scandinavian techno, Michael Fassbender passed out in the snow, a terrible wig on Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny chopping heads off chickens, J.K. Simmons attempting a Norweigan-ish accent, Val Kilmer singing “Happy Birthday” while chugging vodka out of a sports bottle, and of course, the bloodiest, most macabre snowmen ever.
It’s clear from the opening scenes that “The Snowman” is off. It’s edited within an inch of its life, cutting into and away from shots and scenes abruptly, with so much copious additional dialogue scotch-taping everything together it sounds like the movie is dubbed. That wonkiness of tone and pace persists throughout.
It doesn’t help that the film looks absolutely terrible and the screenplay makes very little sense. Subplots are picked up and abandoned, characters that seem important fade away, motivations are never, ever clearly spelled out. In terms of the aesthetic, there’s a necessarily bleak, moody, grayish, snowy vibe going on, but there’s a strange flatness to the image that makes it look like a lot of it was shot on green screen. The eerie, majestic winterscape of Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” is nowhere to be found.
Fassbender plays drunken dirtbag detective Harry Hole (yes, real name, delivered with a straight face always), who only stays on the straight and narrow when he’s got a case. “Sorry for Oslo’s low murder rate,” his boss intones. Harry’s in luck when women start to go missing and he lands a new partner in Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s an aggressive investigator with a penchant for pilfering cold case files, especially ones concerning a drunken dirtbag detective (Val Kilmer), back in her hometown of Bergen.
The story flips back and forth for some reason between Bergen a decade earlier and present-day Oslo, drawing connections between the missing women and a high-powered businessman (Simmons) who is backing a bid for Oslo to host the “Winter Sports Cup.” He’s also pals with a shady abortionist who procures women for him. Too bad this whole plot, which is the majority of the movie, is much ado about nothing.
Among all of this is some truly gruesome imagery, and unimaginable violence, deployed cavalierly, and committed primarily against female victims. Our antihero Hole is himself a bit of a boor, roughing up his female partner to make a point, because he’s got to save the day, his way. What a guy. With a perplexing tale and some very odd creative choices, it’s so easy to laugh at “The Snowman,” but this kind of tale shouldn’t inspire laughter.
1.5 out of 4 stars
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, Jonas Karlsson, J.K. Simmons
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Rated R for grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity.
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