There were some good movies released this week. This was not one of them.
This review is also up at Channel 24
Based on the true story of one of
America's most deadly serial killers, Jack Holcombe is an Alaskan
state trooper who knows that the widely respected Robert Hansen is a
brutal serial killer who kidnaps, rapes then murders women but he
doesn't have the evidence to prove it. That changes however, when
Cindy Paulson becomes the only woman to ever escape Hansen's
clutches, but can Holcombe get her to come forward and confront a
killer or will she simply vanish into a seedy, self-destructive life
of prostitution and drugs?
What we thought
As serial killer stories go, the one
that Frozen Ground is attempting to tell isn't necessarily original
but it's a good solid true-life crime story that should make a good
true-life crime film. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Not by a long shot.
Despite a solid premise, good actors and fittingly icey visuals, The
Frozen Ground is an incredibly boring, monotonous film that somehow
feels less authentic and believable than purely fictional crime
Not to be confused with the singer or,
apparently, the politician, the film's writer/ director is newcomer
Scott Walker who clearly has a knack for impressive visuals and
working with veteran and newbie actors but his storytelling leaves a
lot to be desired. Admittedly, those who are fans of monotonous
procedural crime shows like CSI might find more to like in The Frozen
Ground than I did, but I found the film's fidelity to the procedural
facts of the case, resulted in a film that's in desperate need of
even adequately defined characters and a sense of drama or suspense.
Also being paced slightly faster than molasses in winter would have
been a welcome improvement too. Being icy is one thing; frozen stiff
There is some good news, though.
Vanessa Hudgens proves herself to be a surprisingly effective
Troubled Young Woman, even if her character herself is one of the
dumbest people to hit our screen in some time. It's hard to believe
that the real person she is based on could be this reckless and this
persistently, almost intentionally stupid if she was indeed the only
potential victim to escape this master criminal.
As this master criminal, John Cusack
is very effective – it's amazing how well a guy who is best known
for playing ordinary everymen can so brilliantly convince as a cold,
calculating psychopath – but, again, the film fails him by neither
making his very identity as the murderer a mystery or at least
casting some sort of doubt on the guy's guilt. As it is, it's a very
strong performance robbed of any suspense or intrigue.
Finally, completing our triumvirate of
crappy characters is Nicholas Cage as the film's hero, the
upstanding, hardworking crime fighter, Jack Holcombe. Many have
called Cage's performance here his most subtle in years but I think
it's one of his most underwhelming. Regardless of the film, whether
it's Drive Angry or Leaving Las Vegas, Cage's very particular manic
energy is the very thing that makes him such a compelling screen
presence so casting him here as a very straight laced good guy who
could have been played by literally anybody seems like, at best, an
It doesn't matter how good the
particular actors are or how moodily atmospheric the film is though,
it's a total dud as a piece of storytelling. It's uninteresting,
emotionally unengaging, poorly written, sluggishly paced and utterly
humourless. It's one thing for a crime movie to be one of these
things, but all of them at the same time? That's just unforgivable.