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The Snowman Review

By Lora Grady

The Iceman Dumbeth*

*Alternate titles (credit to BPBS co-founder/Film Guru Joe Lozito):

No More Mr. Ice Guy

Snow Country for Old Men

Looking for a tense, scary, stylish thrill ride that'll intrigue you and give you the creeps all at the same time? Check out the trailer for "The Snowman." It introduces a mysterious killer who attacks women during snowstorms, signing his crime scenes by leaving behind the titular effigy in the snow. He's a playful psychopath, sometimes leaving decapitated bodies topped with a snowman's grinning, dripping visage, or placing a victim's head on top of... you guessed it, a snowman. Michael Fassbender ("Alien: Covenant"), as the scruffy police detective who's hot on the madman's trail, declares him, "...completely insane!" There are lovely, swooping shots of icy landscapes and deceptively serene unbroken snowfalls, and quick glimpses of stark, terrible crime scenes. It hooks you in by telling the beginning of a story that you can't wait to see unfold.


But you won't. Whatever's going on in "The Snowman," it's not what was promised in the previews. If you're seeking that exciting thrill ride, you'd be better off just sticking with the trailer.

Holy hell, this is a mess of a movie. It's hard to know where to start. Is it the aggressively confusing storyline? The leaden mise-en-scène? The tendency of well-regarded actors to drop in for passages that are more than cameos but don't quite tally up to main cast billing, leading to the impression that a substantial chunk of "The Snowman" still lurks on the proverbial cutting room floor? Really: how is it that Chloe Sevigny ("Beatriz at Dinner") has two roles here - she's playing twins, though this does absolutely nothing to advance the plot - and still manages to end up with less than 10 minutes of screen time?

"The Snowman" is based on the novel of the same name by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo. Mr. Fassbender plays detective Harry Hole (the name may have seemed more elegant in Mr. Nesbo's native language), a periodically repentant alcoholic with an alarming tendency to pass out in public parks or on snowy sidewalks where he's kicked at by random passers-by. He is (of course) a loose cannon whose supervisor has (of course) had it up to here with his drinking, but apparently his crime-solving skills are enough (of course) to negate the damaging impact of his drinking. He's paired up with detective Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson, "Life") to look into a couple of disappearances that may be part of a larger plot involving local captain of industry Arve Støp (J.K. Simmons, "The Accountant"). Or maybe they're tied to an earlier crime, which Bratt is investigating even though she's not supposed to.

There are flashbacks to a detective played by Val Kilmer, who squabbles with his partner (a painfully under-utilized Toby Jones) and stands out in part because his dialogue seems to be inexplicably - and quite badly - dubbed. He's also the only member of the cast who's not game enough to essay an English accent; this despite the fact that the whole proceeding takes place in Norway. Sigh. Continuing to attempt an outline of this plot won't help anybody, but it's worth noting that this is the sort of outing where characters triumphantly reach conclusions that aren't based on logic and haven't necessarily been reached through any linking of moments we've seen onscreen, so it's easy to lose the pace and stop caring about what the hell is going on long before this two-hour film has even reached the halfway mark.

"The Snowman" might be redeemed if it were bolstered by the lovely scenic shots that pepper the two and a half minute long trailer, but alas. The first half of the film looks strangely washed out and is frequently hampered by a sickly greyish haze that's only partly attributable to the fact that Detective Hole chain-smokes throughout. If "The Snowman" had been shot in 1972 there would be angry calls from theater managers to the distributor looking for copies of the first three reels that hadn't been exposed to x-rays on their way through the cross-country shipping process. Digital filmmaking has annulled that excuse, so one must presume that this haze is an intentional choice - but to what end?

Continuing to pick apart "The Snowman" would constitute shooting fish in a barrel - which, incidentally, would be a better and more amusing use of your time than watching this film. There are some not-terrible performances here but the plot is at such cross-purposes that it's not worth calling them out. In conclusion: this movie is bad. Not so-bad-it's-good, might be the next "The Room" bad. This is "How on earth did this end up on screen??" bad. "The Snowman" is exactly the kind of movie that film reviews were made for: we saw this one so you won't have to.

What did you think?

Movie title The Snowman
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary This movie? It's bad. We're cutting right to the chase...and wishing the filmmakers had done the same.
View all articles by Lora Grady
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