Rated: R for grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: October 20, 2017 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
It's hard to believe that Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is at the reins of this torpid, obfuscated thriller set in Norway. One that will please very few, especially distaff onlookers in the latter going.
The Snowman is taken from the seventh book in the Harry Hole series (formulaic, yet involving) and is another very unlucky venture for Michael Fassbender (after last holiday season's video game adaptation Assassin's Creed). The 40-year-old newlywed (to lovely Alicia Vikander whom he met in The Light Between Oceans) may be caught in a rut here like he was in The Counselor opposite other notables like Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.
Fassbender plays Hole with a haunted quality that never really comes to fruition in what appears to have traces of the serial-killer genre but doesn't come close to making its atmospheric production (lensing by Dion Beebe) smooth out the rough convolutions (Oslo can be a gleaming metropolis, at least here, alongside the frosty landscapes). And one of the strands accounts for its attraction as a sporting venue.
Harry is a chain-smoking, alcoholic (but rather athletic) detective trying to rekindle fonder times with his ex Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and stepson (Michael Yates) as he becomes involved in a homicide case with feisty, tyro colleague Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) whose past puts her in a compromising position. The eponymous killer leaves his calling card after the first snowfall and has the duo moving around from Oslo to Bergen. A usually reliable Alfredson is unable to establish a strong viable tone and the result with the movement between past and present making something with potential (based on those involved) very frustrating (and insulting).
The victims of a killer whom many will guess probably by the halfway point (if not earlier) are adulterous women who've terminated pregnancies as the motivation for the garroting has a sadistic, if silly Freudian slant. Not getting much screen time but decent billing are the likes of J.K. Simmons as a sleazy mogul Arve Stop and Toby Jones as Inspector Svensson. 'Looking Back' segments include a Bergen private-eye with a penchant for liquor, Gert Rafto, that leaves Val Kilmer in an embarrassing, glossed-over look with lines (over) dubbed after inability to use his tongue stemming from throat cancer surgery a couple of years ago.
The Snowman obviously doesn't have what pictures like Se7en or the recent, riveting Wind River have in conveying tension and bonds between characters who have depth instead going by-the-numbers or on-the-fly opting against coherence for the gratuitously odious. Unintentional yuks may be afforded when sausage is sliced, someone hides behind a cupboard, or a dazed Gainsbourg putting Rakel into risqué territory. While inhabiting this kind of unsympathetic, opaque protagonist Fassbender should have known that this project disparages Jo Nesbo's successful antecedent, unable to hold water (read: ice) especially as it finally reaches a flaccid denouement. What a misguided Hole-y mess !