THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Frozen Ground (2013)
Directed by Scott Walker
It’s really amazing the difference a few years can make. If this was 2007 and a dark, brooding serial killer film starring Nic Cage and John Cusack was released it probably would have been bigger shit. At the very least it would have made it to the theaters and garnered a scent of a buzz…but in 2014, no one really pays attention to direct to DVD material.
Well, maybe no one pays attention to Cage or Cusack any more. Both have started down a path that few “stars” desire, fearing to be pulled into the kingdom ruled by Steven Seagal. Oh sure, they’re still working, but we all know that they’d rather have their work seen by the masses on the big screen, not just on your big screen.
I’ve tried to stick with Cage, renting his most recent flicks even though I know better. Every so often he still has a good flick, and The Frozen Ground falls under that category. For the most part Cage keeps things pretty understated, avoiding getting all Cage-ish this time, though his hair looks as baffling as ever. He plays detective Jack Halcombe, a man about to retire from the force when he’s handed the case of a young woman who claims she escaped the clutches of a very bad man. Vanessa Hudgens does a good job as a drugged out hooker who’s the only known survivor of the killer, and Cage decides its up to him to save her. They have good chemistry together and for the first time in a while I bought Cage in a role.
Based on a true story, The Frozen Ground doesn’t break the mold of the serial killer thriller as it stays perfectly in the white lines. It's balances between our three main characters. We learn a little about the cop and his family life. We learn a little about the killer and his family life. We learn a little about what it's like to be a hooker in Alaska. Then it’s all about the hunt. The problem becomes that we don't learn enough about any of them.
Writer/director Scott Walker keeps his cast reigned in as I'm sure everybody was as cold as they looked. My favorite character might be the long haired pimp played by 50 Cent. He's got a nastiness that's interesting, though I wish they would have explained how a stereotypical New York pimp ended up in Alaska. The most wasted cast member is Breaking Bad favorite Dean Norris who plays…you guessed it…a cop. He has nothing to do here beyond telling Cage information when he needs it.
And little mistakes like that keep The Frozen Ground from being really good. It's missing the small details, the small character moments that would have perhaps landed this in theaters. However, since this is a Netflix-kinda movie, it's perfectly entertaining for a dark kind of a night.
Since the story is true, my main issue is that they didn't play up Cusack's baker character more. We see him making bread, but they could have done much more to investigate the duality of the man. I know people sometimes give Cusack shit for “acting” sometimes by staying away from his usual stock character, but I like guy, and I like him here as a shifty serial killer up in Alaska who loves himself some prostitutes. He's damn good as the bad guy. And if anything, we all can learn that Cage and Cusack need to keep making more movies together. Hopefully one of them will end up back at a theater near you.