The abominable ‘Snowman’

Fass­ben­der and meaty cast can’t save this fright­en­ingly bad Scandi-noir night­mare

The Herald (South Africa) - - LEISURE -

(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’

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