Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Ronan Vibert, Chloë Sevigny, James D'Arcy, Jamie Clayton, Jakob Oftebro, Jonas Karlsson, Michael Yates, Alec Newman
Written by: Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, Søren Sveistrup, based on a novel by Jo Nesbø
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
MPAA Rating: R for grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity
Running Time: 119
Date: 10/20/2017

The Snowman (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

A Hole in the Plot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a novel by Jo Nesbø, this crime thriller features a promising director and a strong cast, and yet it's a total mess, with baffling flashbacks, excessive padding, and an overall bad execution.

In The Snowman, a flashback shows a young boy as he endures abuse from his "uncle," a married policeman engaged in an illicit affair with his mother. In the present day, in Oslo, Norway, detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), who drinks and smokes too much, begins investigating the disappearance of a woman. With the help of a new recruit, Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), he finds a pattern of missing women, all taken during snowfalls, all mothers, and all in unhappy marriages. Snowmen have been built at the scenes of the crimes.

Clues lead them to the powerful businessman Arve Støp (J.K. Simmons), who is trying to get a winter sports event to come to Oslo. However, Harry's investigation is complicated by his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and being a father-figure to her son (Michael Yates). And the killer seems to be watching his every move.

Filmmaker Tomas Alfredson had given the world Let the Right One In (2008) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) — both exceptional adaptations of novels — and there was no reason to worry that The Snowman could be any less. It starts well enough, using Oslo's snowy atmosphere to interesting effect, but the characters and their almost random behavior begins to undo things quickly.

Flashbacks to a character played by Val Kilmer are astoundingly bad; Kilmer wears weird makeup and his voice is clearly dubbed — and dubbed poorly — by another actor. Digital visual effects depicting gore scenes appear flat and unfinished. And dumb coincidences and endless scenes of the character simply getting from one place to another are plentiful.

Frankly, there's no real reason that the hero and heroine should team up in the first place, other than the fact that he has no driver's license and she does. The mystery at the center isn't so bad, but the murkiness in getting to it make The Snowman not worth the effort.

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