A serial killer drama set in a snowy, scary Scandinavian outback, directed by the man who made the brilliant vampire reimagining, Let the Right One In. A cast which includes an Oscar nom (Michael Fassbender), a winner (J.K. Simmons), and stellar supporting players like Val Kilmer, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Toby Jones. So why then does The Snowman suck so bad? Where did all the potential go, and more importantly, why does everything feel false, rushed, and ready for the direct-to-DVD bin at your local Walmart?
Insider reports suggest a production truncated by a nervous studio, a lack of necessary footage, and an overall feeling that filmmaker Tomas Alfredson was rushed, both at the beginning and at the end, to get the project done and into theaters before it was ready. Granted, these are just excuses for what is up on the screen, but after seeing The Snowman, you will definitely agree that something which had at least some potential ended up a failed, feeble mess.
Fassbender plays the unlikely named Henry Hole, a detective with all the cliched baggage that such a thriller mandates. He drinks. A lot. He doesn’t play by the rules. His bosses hate him and his family, including his ex (Gainsbourg) isn’t very far behind. And yet, in this clunky narrative, he’s beloved by all. He’s also a whiz at solving complex, seemingly clueless murders.
In this case, a psycho is running around Norway killing woman, his calling card consisting of a supposedly scary pile of frozen water from whence the film gets its title. Hole has a partner he doesn’t want or need named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) that suggests our murderer is set off by falling snow. And since we’re in the balmy tundra…well, you can see how helpful her hunch is.
There’s also a suspicious local politician (Simmons), a cop we only see in flashback (Kilmer), and way too many unexplained offerings and loose ends to make any kind of sense. The Snowman feels like an extended episode of CSI with none of the C. S. or I. included. It’s as if the script Alfredson was working with removed all the police procedural pandering and thought it could get away with being incredibly vague and expressionistic (rumor has it that a percentage of the screenplay was nixed for budgetary reasons).
Not even the cast can save us from the cinematic malaise The Snowman indulges in. Fassbender, when given words like the ones mastered by Aaron Sorkin in Steve Jobs, can light the screen up with just his voice. Here, given a dofus of a detective to play, he seems lost and very, very lame. Given something to sink his talented teeth into, he could have made Hole a compelling character. But all of this man’s flaws are superficial, an adaptation’s way of making a novel (The Snowman is based on a bestseller by Joe Nesbo) and book series’ more intricate details digestible to a mainstream movie audience. It doesn’t fly.
Neither does the mystery. You can feel the red herrings being throw at the screen in random fashion, forcing you into a piecemeal puzzle box that never adds up to anything intriguing or interesting. In fact, one could argue that broadcast dramas do a better job of turning up the dread and suspense than this dire, dull experience. The Snowman stumbles because it feels incomplete and incompetent. We see talent all around this project and yet none of it appears on the screen.
At least the famous Frosty had a top hat which brought him back to life. Sadly, this Snowman is dead on arrival, with no chance of being resuscitated.