The abominable ‘Snowman’
Fassbender and meaty cast can’t save this frighteningly bad Scandi-noir nightmare
(2) THE SNOWMAN. Directed by: Tomas Alfredson. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer, Chloë Sevigny, J K Simmons. Reviewed by: Tim Robey.
THE Snowman goes wrong quickly, permanently and in a spiral, turning into a nonsensical nightmare of Scandi-noir howlers from which you sometimes feel you may never awaken.
Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, from whose seventh Harry Hole thriller this is taken, has met with a fate almost as grim as the film’s multiple victims, whose severed body parts are used to accessorise the killer’s favoured call-sign: a menacing snowman placed near the scene.
It’s an especially steep fall for the director, Tomas Alfredson, who has assembled a cast almost as meaty as the one he put together for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Michael Fassbender is Nesbø’s loose-cannon detective, an alcoholic liability whose actual methods of investigation involve stumbling on information much more often than figuring it out.
Take his first clue to the incipient murder spree, which comes in the form of a helpful note from the culprit, addressed directly to him.
A missing mother in an Oslo suburb kicks the story off: she’s abducted in the middle of the night, leaving a traumatised daughter and an edgy husband (James D’Arcy) awaiting further news.
First, though, the film sets up its killer’s motivation with a background story about a boy left orphaned when his mother intentionally drove onto a frozen lake and stayed strapped in as he escaped.
Past and present, alas, are finessed as elegantly as an ice-rink relay with skates missing. The film’s grisliest moments get sprung with an arbitrariness that prompts guffaws – there’s none of that creeping, incremental dread from The Silence of the Lambs, just sudden shots of a shotgun blowing someone’s head off and a sphere of ice being plonked on top.
All the controlled symbolism from Alfredson’s vampire chiller Let the Right One In has flown out the window, too. With all due respect to Peter Straughan and Hossein Amini for their excellent work on other movies, this evident palimpsest of a script is pretty much a case of Let the Wrong One In.
Still, the needless weirdness of some of the acting goes beyond the call of duty. There’s nothing much poor Rebecca Ferguson can do with the role of Katrine Bratt, a fellow cop who dolls up with lipstick and come-hither flirting strategies for a sting operation against creepy magazine editor Arve Støp (J K Simmons).
Playing her reckless, boozy dad in flashbacks is Val Kilmer, in a performance so insane and badly dubbed the editor seems to be trying to hide from it constantly.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, as Hole’s ex, calls in bitterly now and then with some crisis involving their teenage son. If the decapitations weren’t unfortunate enough, the childcare situation is getting right out of hand.
Fassbender attempts a bleary, rheumy, sorrowful sort of turn, brought to his feet only by the sad old state of the world. But the role of Hole is so wonkily inserted into the overall plot, you regularly lose track of which lead he’s chasing up, and who’s a witness or a suspect.
If The Snowman merely aimed to max out on swooping chopper shots of frosty Norwegian harbour fronts, and otherwise to be abominable, consider the job done. – The Telegraph
CRACKS IN THE ICE: Michael Fassbender stars as a loose-cannon detective in the thriller ‘The Snowman’