The Snowman (Movie Review)

The Snowman (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: An alcoholic cop tracks down a murderer known as The Snowman, Norway's first serial killer.

REVIEW: I had heard the bad buzz about THE SNOWMAN walking into it, but so what? Watching the opening credits, my eyes lit up at the appearance of so many great names. Made in association with Working Title Films (UNITED 93, BABY DRIVER). Executive produced by Martin Scorsese! Edited by Scorsese's legendary longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker. Co-written by DRIVE screenwriter Hossein Amini. Directed by LET THE RIGHT ONE IN helmer Tomas Alfredson. And, of course, starring the great Michael Fassbender. Hard to believe this could go wrong, right?

Wrong it goes. THE SNOWMAN is a clunky mess from nearly start to finish, made with little to no verve or coherence. It tells a fairly simple serial killer story and wraps it up in so many random plot threads, false leads and red herrings that our patience wears thin long before the unsatisfying resolution arrives to mercifully close it out. It has come out recently that Alfredson didn't have enough time to shoot everything necessary - "Our shoot time in Norway was way too short," is the director's quote - and that is clear throughout. The movie is complicated in sloppy ways; characters are introduced and disappear at random, subplots come and go with little bearing on the big picture. Worst of all, not a single person in this movie is worth spending any time with.

Plot revolves around a serial killer whose big thing is leaving an ominous snowman at the houses of his victims. It's up to worn-out cop Harry Hole (Fassbender) to catch him. Seems pretty straight-forward, but the story (based on Jo Nesbo's popular best seller) weaves in a hundred different directions in an attempt to make the narrative more complex than it needs to be. To get into it all would take up more time than I'm willing to give. Hole is the protagonist in over ten of Nesbo's books, but something must have been lost in translation here because there's nothing exceptional about the character. He's your typical hard-drinking detective who's great at his job but poor at maintaining meaningful relationships. As played by Fassbender, Hole is a depressing curmudgeon, and even the normally charismatic actor can't make him compelling in the least.

It's very possible the material is weak to begin with, I'll admit I haven't read the novel. I left the movie baffled as to so many of the characters' motives. The main villain, once revealed, is a total cop out, the reasoning behind their reign of terror thoroughly unconvincing. Lots of red herrings abound but none are diverting, and a very weird subplot involving a detective investigating similar cases years earlier is wholly misguided. It doesn't help that the detective is played by Val Kilmer, whose dialogue was evidently ADR'd to no good effect at all. (The actor battled cancer during filming, which is evident.) Like so many tangents in THE SNOWMAN, this random stuff could have been cut out and the movie would be almost no different save for some narrative padding. Same goes for a subplot involving a shady character played by J.K. Simmons who is pushing to have Norway host the Olympics. (Seriously.) Maintaining some dignity is Rebecca Ferguson as Hole's partner on the case, but mostly every detail given to the character is by-the-numbers.

I must return to Thelma Schoonmaker. Not often, or ever, that I'll single out an editor in a review, but Thelma is one of the best that ever lived. Shocking, then, that THE SNOWMAN feels so slapdash, so awkwardly cobbled together. Surely Schoonmaker can't be blamed much, as she can only work with the footage she's given, but I couldn't believe that this amazing editor had cut together such an incongruous waste of time. A testament to how wrong this picture was from the start. (Schoonmaker actually picked up for editor Claire Simpson, who was first on the film.) Most egregiously, THE SNOWMAN is completely lacking in tension or excitement; even when we're presumably supposed to fear for some of our protagonists' lives the movie crawls along, a funereal atmosphere filling in for any kind of substantial intensity. What an incredible bummer this entire ordeal is.

Extra Tidbit: THE SNOWMAN opens October 20th



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