Rated: R for violent content, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: August 23, 2013 Released by: Lions Gate Films
A fact-based procedural/thriller doesn't stand on firm ground (no pun intended) perhaps raising too many questions while being in essence too by-the-numbers aurally pulsating though machinating with lasciviousness and ethical gazing into absurd convention.
Given the dangling, cut-to-the-chase material assembled in Scott Walker's The Frozen Ground the leads in Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and Vanessa Hudgens actually acquit themselves during the first Reagan Administration in Anchorage, Alaska.
Cusack is more of a chameleon in his Robert Hansen supposed family man who is identified by Hudgens' rescued by cops underage call-girl Cindy barely escaping from his kidnapping and rape of her. Hansen seems to have enough of a plausible excuse against the wayward teen's account with swept aside physical evidence. But Cage's State Trooper Jack begins to connect Cindy's circumstances with more missing person's cases, looking for a way to vindicate her and follow up on Robert as a possible serial killer.
Not that Walker doesn't appear able to flex his ability behind the camera with the kind of editing to swiftly move frames which express difficulty growing up and the gloominess surrounding a deep personal loss. So, even with some vibrant lensing which make great use of Alaskan settings to establish the mood to offer a pulsating narrative viscosity the scenes themselves just come across as too disjointed with too many clunky line-readings as authorities themselves are hardly putatively distinctive. Subordinating the central through-line is the effect on Jack's personal life with wife Allie (Radha Mitchell) and Cindy in a precarious state with her slick bosses as done by Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson and Brad Henke. This is done so barely, but in a way that what stands out is how more than one character's personality or actions have a nagging inconsistency about them.
Still, because of the enterprise being of the real-life variety the way a cliche like this can be diffused amorphously it oddly has the stealthy quality of enrapturing in raw, if undeveloped fashion. A special case really isn't so special in spite of the way Cusack approaches Hansen (more dialed-down than a recent death-row tormenter under the direction of Lee Daniels in The Paperboy before his less garish, more affecting The Butler). A less outsized Cage has some appeal as his investigator shares some important kindling with a halfway decent Hudgens (Spring Breakers).
If you can appreciate The Frozen Ground more for its exterior acumen around the adult stuff enveloping narcotics and strip clubs it is too hard to embrace in nearly every way as much as the cast and crew offer it because of a slippery, uneven way around telling what was a startling, salient story.
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