The Frozen Ground - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Frozen Ground Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 22, 2013
This little indie thriller is based on the real life story about an Alaskan State Trooper's quest to apprehend serial killer Robert Hansen whose malicious ways managed to stay largely off the map for about 13 years. Part of it had to do with the nature of the crimes, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that, at least to the public, Hansen came off as a very upstanding, decent, mild mannered guy. The last guy you'd really expect to be a monster.

The film adds fiction by changing some of the names, and that sort of thing, but I don't think that matters much. In the end, what's important is that this is a gripping, entertaining thriller that makes the most of mood, tone, and atmosphere over loads of gore. That, and, while you already basically know where it's going, it's still a pretty suspenseful little affair.

Nicolas Cage is the main trooper on the case, dropping basically all of the shtick he's become known for, and giving a solid, straightforward turn that proves he really is a talented guy. Vanessa Hudgens is a troubled stripper who initially escapes Hansen's clutches and helps out with the case, and then there's John Cusack as Hansen. He's great. It's unlike any of his previous performances, and he really sells it. He's not overt or campy, or over the top. He plays it straight, and as a result, is quite chilling. There's also appearances by 50 Cent, Radha Mitchell, and Dean Norris among others, and, while I could have used more of them, especially Norris (and that is in general, and not just here), they're fine. Well, 50 is the weakest, but that shouldn't be too surprising.

The film uses the Alaskan locales to great effect, and the cinematography is wonderful. This is a stark, haunting land, and the grisly story is a perfect match for such climes.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but will admit that the story and script could have been stronger. They're decent enough, but the main thing that really makes this film work is the acting. Yeah, even Hudgens is good. I would compare this in a lot of ways to Zodiac, though this one isn't nearly the masterpiece that one is. I may be a bit easy on this one, but you know, I don't care. I think this worked quite well, despite a few flaws, so keep an open mind and give this a look.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2013
The hunter becomes the hunted.

Good thriller! The film downplays the gore, while showing the seedy and soul-crushing underworld where Cusack finds his victims. A very nice bonus is that almost all of the police officers shown in the film are hard-working people who want to catch this killer, but know they have to work within the law to ensure he doesn't escape them in the courts. Vanessa Hudgens turns in a very nice performance as one victim who escaped and was instrumental in identifying the killer. The director does a fine job of capturing the ghostly silences of the frozen north, where so many of the man's victims were buried. All in all, a fine, atmospheric film that is both thrilling and sad. Well worth your time.

Alaskan trooper, Jack Holcombe believes that Robert Hansen is a serial killer who abducts young girls then tortures and sexually assaults them then kills them. But he doesn't have enough evidence to justify a search warrant of Hansen's premises. He knows one of his victims, Cyndy Paulsen somehow survived so he tries to find her and asks her to help him. But when he finds her, she's a junkie and has trust issues. So Holcombe has to try and earn her trust so that she could help him. But Hansen is still doing it.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2013
Very badly fictionalized. The truth may have needed adjustments to make it gripping; however, while it adjusts the truth, it fails to make it interesting enough.
Super Reviewer
September 25, 2013
four stars...
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2014
Based on actual events, The Frozen Ground tells a grizzly tale of the macabre. In his final days as an Alaska State Trooper Jack Halcombe discovers a serial killer case and peruses suspect Robert Hansen with the help of a prostitute that escape from Hansen's liar. Starring Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, and John Cusack, the cast is fairly strong; though the performances are somewhat subdued. The writing is also lackluster and overly procedural; making it fairly predictable. Still, despite its production issues The Frozen Ground is a fascinating story.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2013
Anchorage, Alaska, 1984. For the previous 13 years, Robert Hansen (Cusack) has been abducting young women who he sexually assaults in his cabin before flying them to the Alaskan woods where he shoots them and buries their corpses. His latest abductee, Cindy Paulson (Hudgens), manages to escape his clutches but, being a prostitute, the police fail to take her seriously. Alaska State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Cage), however, vows to take down Hansen and enlists the aid of Paulson but the young woman is reluctant and ends up placing herself in even more danger.

Nicolas Cage has long been associated with bad movies but his latest film sees him enter the realm of bad taste. Based on a horrific true story, 'The Frozen Ground' treats its subject and the parties involved with little respect, cashing in on a series of gruesome crimes in the most tasteless manner possible. At the movie's end we're told the film is dedicated to Hansen's victims, whose photos are displayed onscreen while the most inappropriately cheesy piece of upbeat rock music plays over the soundtrack. Writer/director Walker is completely out of his depth with this kind of material, his script riddled with cliched characters and dumb dialogue, his direction as bland as a TV 'Law & Order' type procedural drama.

Most of the cast seem to have agreed to their roles in this film in a failed attempt to prove themselves as "serious" actors. This is certainly the darkest fare we've seen Cage in for quite some time but despite being one of his more subtle performances, we still can't help but see Crazy Cage, just in a slightly toned down version. Like Cage, Cusack is two decades past his prime and with this, his role in 'The Paperboy', and his upcoming turn as Nixon in 'The Butler' (or whatever they plan to call it following a court case which ruled that name out), seems determined to reinvent himself as the go-to-guy for creepiness. Frankly, he's just dull in these sort of roles and the sooner he returns to comic fare the better. Jackson is more well known as the rapper '50 Cent' but has been carving out an acting career which seems to be going nowhere. His resume is filled with stereotypical "gangsta" roles and that's exactly what we get once more here. Conversely, Hudgens' career transformation from Disney popette to "bad girl" seems to be flowing along nicely and she's by far the best thing about this, though her character is as cliched a rendition of a "hooker with a heart of gold" as they come. She's also possibly the world's most attractive meth-addict.
On paper, 'The Frozen Ground' sounds like a winner, a gripping manhunt set against a cinematic backdrop, 'Zodiac' meets 'Insomnia'. Walker has wasted such an opportunity and if you were to watch both the aforementioned movies back to back, their combined 275 minute running time would seem a lot shorter than the 105 minutes you'll endure here.
Super Reviewer
½ April 13, 2014
I find that the best thrillers come from films that are based on real life events. Some of these stories are just so twisted and crazy, that even the best writer wouldn't be able to imagine them on their own. The story told in the film The Frozen Ground, is one such story, telling the world about serial killer, Robert Hansen. From the 1970s until 1983, Hansen was one of the nations most prolific serial killers. What makes Hansen's story unique is that he was able to do all this, without the police even connecting the cases, because of where he lived. Hansen's story begins in Anchorage Alaska, where he began preying on prostitutes. After torturing and killing them, he would dump the bodies in remote, unpopulated areas of Alaska, where they were ravaged by the weather and wild animals. This made finding the cause of death or even identifying the victims nearly impossible. Hansen would probably still be active today, if it wasn't for Cindy Paulson, the only victim in 12 years, to escape the madman, and that's where our film begins. Nicholas Cage stars as Jack Halcombe, a state police detective who comes up with a wild theory that all these missing people and strange deaths, could be connected. Halcombe has a tough time convincing anyone of this, especially since his only witness is a drug abusing prostitute. Nicolas Cage excels in movies like this and is again terrific. Cage was born to play a cop and in my opinion does it better than anyone else out there. In this film, he's paired with Zac Efron's ex, Vanessa Hudgens, who wasn't great, but was much better than I expected. It's difficult to make the transition from Disney cover girl to a legitimate movie star, but I'd say that Hudgens is well on her way. Finally, John Cusack rounds out this all-star cast, playing Robert Hansen. After all the films I've seen Cusack in, I really couldn't imagine him as the bad guy, but his performance is what really helps this movie stand out, and hopefully will lead him to other similar roles. The Frozen Ground is a little slow, but it is supposedly very accurate, and tells an interesting story that most people know nothing about. It's the kind of film that I really go for and hopefully you will too.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2014
Man, isn't Alaska tough enough to live in without a particularly creepy and dorky-looking John Cusack raping and killing you? I'd say that Robert Hansen looks so much like a serial murderer - middle-aged, with glasses and a dead look in the eyes and everything - that any self-respecting stereotyper just had to know that it was him who did the deeds, but I'd be more suspicious of Nicolas Cage, and he's playing the detective. Cage just looks too crazy, and he's certainly deadly to the credibility of a film at this point, and yet, filmmaker Scott Walker still got him, as well as Vanessa Hudgens and 50 Cent for good measure. Man, I can see why no one is seeing this film, not because it's a low-profile, anti-commercial vehicle or anything like that, but because its cast isn't particularly promising, no matter how star-studded. I can understand 50 Cent being here, as he is also a co-producer for some reason, but after an "artistic" breakthrough like "Spring Breakers", I'm no longer convinced of Hudgens' having all that much integrity, or being 17 for that matter. Of course, I might just be saying that because the most remembered thing about this film is the fact that her 17-year-old character in this film is a stripper, and everyone keeps trying to assure him or herself (If you're into that thing, gals) that she's well into her 20s. Oh, she probably did worse when she was actually 17, but as she is now, in this kind of role, she doesn't exactly dampen this film's being fairly enjoyable all that much, as opposed to certain other elements.

The film attempts to freshen up a formulaic narrative with plot layering, focusing on the hunt for Robert Hansen, Hansen's interaction with his peers and targets, and even the origin of a teen prostitute who was able to escape Hansen, and do so with an ambition to milk this subject matter for all its worth that is worthy, but overblown, leaving the film to lose consistency in focus, or rather, what actual focus it has. Whether it be because the narrative is too overblown to progress all that smoothly, or because of sheer bloating to structuring, this film has a tendency to lose focus altogether and meander along repetitiously, no matter how much Scott Walker, at least as director, overemphasizes tonal heights. Walker's overt directorial attention to momentum prevents bland spells and is often pretty effective, yet it's just as often lacking in subtlety, bluntly overplaying intense score work and imagery to manipulate tension. The narrative structuring and somewhat manipulative storytelling both reflect an ambition that is in turn reflective of natural shortcomings within this small-scale thriller subject matter, which would be more compelling if the film was more ambitious about handling this story more uniquely. This is just another serial killer story, interpreted about as conventionally as it can be by Walker, as writer, with trite dialogue and formulaic characterization that craft a plot which is hopelessly predictable, and therefore plagued with bland familiarity. With all of my rambling about blandness, this film's entertainment value gets the final product by quite a ways, but neither it nor even the other strengths of this promising project can compensate for the structural and atmospheric bloatings that ultimately make the effort rather forgettable. Of course, while the film has your attention, it keeps a firm enough grip to engage adequately, even with decent looks.

The sharpness of the film's visual style goes dulled by a lack of specialty, as reflected by near-distancing camera shakery, a lack of originality and even limited depth to bleakness, which still distinguished enough within cinematographer Patrick Murguia's lighting and coloring with a rugged handsomeness that also adds to a sense of grit. Even visual style is rather lacking in this film which offers the bare minimum of ambition, but it's still inspired enough to reflect said ambition, which is overblown, but understandable, as this subject matter is intriguing, no matter how overblown and formulaic the interpretation is. Well, sure, natural shortcomings are in this thriller of limited urgency, and they go emphasized by uneven structuring and a feel of ambition, though if there is meat in this dramatic serial killer hunt, - and, make no mistake, there surely is - then it is done justice by the very direction that tries too hard in certain places. While overly hopeful, both as writer and director, newcoming filmmaker Scott Walker's efforts meet ambition with enough inspiration, at least in terms of the direction, which sustains a consistent degree of entertainment value with momentous, if unsubtle plays on scoring and pacing, often used with enough realized control to deliver on genuine tension. Walker clearly wants engagement value to be more than adequate, but it's not like the final product's compellingness isn't serviceable enough to entertain and sometimes grip with dramatic weight that is supported most consistently by the performances. That especially goes for the more major cast members, with John cusack being convincing, if underwritten as a seemingly grounded murderer, and Venessa Hudgens being surprisingly effective in a dramatically weighty portrayal of a young woman whose short life is plagued with past troubles and new dangers, while Nicholas Cage, well, once again portrays himself, but brings in the classic charisma and subtle dramatic effectiveness that we don't see as much of these days as we used to. This isn't exactly a comeback for Cage, or a revelation for certain other cast members, as this film is still not realized enough to be all that respectable of a project, but the final product is certainly endearing, with enough entertainment value and bite to keep you going as an entertaining, if underwhelming thriller.

When the heat has died down, uneven, if not aimless focus within, both structurally and atmospherically, overblown, and generic, storytelling leave the final product to limp barely into memorability, but a gritty visual style, interesting story, reasonably inspired directorial performance and solid cast are ultimately enough to make Scott Walker's "The Frozen Ground" an entertaining and often effective account of the hunt for an Alaskan killer of the '80s, regardless of ambition's being betrayed by a fair deal of issues.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ October 5, 2013
Based on the unconscionable killing spree of Robert Hansen, The Frozen Ground, finds Nicholas Cage in a return-to-form as a State Trooper on his trail. It's a film with a very compelling story, albeit a film that is overly conventional, to be sure, yet still effective in its execution.

Forunately for Nicholas Cage fan's, his performance in this film ranks among the best from him in recent years (not saying much), bringing back the intensity and screen presence his best roles are known for. In Frozen Ground he is relentless, obsessed, yet disillusioned, all traits he seems to inhibit well on the screen. He's matched by a fairly good supporting cast, with John Cuscak effective as the eerily creepy Hansen.

The film is conventional in its approach, surprisng considering some of hte liberties the film took. It's very procedural, and we often get the feeling that perhaps the material deserved something more compelling, something in the vain of Zodiac. That said, it does hit on all of the expected beats, though with some dramatic cliches, and features performances that elevate the material. The film's bleak tone and dark mood are consistent thoughought, and I felt made for some effective world-building; we see a side of Alaska rarely seen. It's the film's darkness that I found most compelling, even ending on a dreary note, which I felt was a good departure from the otherwise formulaic approach taken prior.

It's not among the best in the genre, but it's an all-around solid drama of a very disturbing story, done well enought to leave you uncomftable.

3.5/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ September 29, 2013
This thriller written and directed by Scott Walker, based on the real-life 1980s Alaskan hunt for serial killer Robert Hansen is bringing us back Nicolas Cage as a solidly performing star. Hansen stalked and murdered between 17 and 21 young women, kidnapping them and taking them by plane out to the Alaskan wilderness where he shot and buried them. I enjoyed Nicolas Cage as a detective but even more John Cusack as a villain, as well as Vanessa Hudgens, Katherine LaNasa, Radha Mitchell and 50 Cent.

The real story in The Frozen Ground was about Alaskan detective Glenn Flothe but in this film he is called Sgt. Jack Halcombe. Our hero Halcombe sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen, a respected member of the community who is actually a serial killer who has silently stalked the streets of Anchorage for more than 13 years. With every possible opportunity the bodies of Anchorage women start to add up, and Sgt. Halcombe who is supposed to finish his job in two weeks goes on a personal manhunt to find the killer. When 17-year-old Cindy Paulson escapes Halcombe has a chance to finally catch him.

If you like efficient police procedural, an Australian director principally known for commercials is giving you a chance to enjoy this reconstructed story fully in the amazing scenery of Alaska.
Super Reviewer
August 31, 2013
In the same vein as almost every other unsolved mystery manhunt thriller, "The Frozen Ground" relies a little too heavily on the average conventions, trading exciting and dynamic tension for based on a true story authenticity. Pitting Nicolas Cage against serial killer John Cusack reads like a dream come true, but with sub-par, barely there performances, both men come off more like reprising roles that worked better elsewhere, Cage's being his detective role in "8MM" and Cusack's being his creepy performance in "The Paperboy", both of which came off much more character-like that these phoned in performances. The turn that does raise an eyebrow is Vanessa Hudgens, who also hones in on her previous performance in "Spring Breakers" but still does a lot with her character, now setting herself so far from her "High School Musical" days that you can hardly recognize her behind the smeared mascara and prostitute attire. The idea of "The Frozen Ground" sells this film perfectly, a true story from Alaska about a serial killer that blends into the community and continues to get away with it. However, the execution feels off and what reads on paper as an epic thriller becomes exactly what it is, a straight-to-DVD thriller with some average performances and nothing quite memorable after the credits roll.
½ January 2, 2015
Fine, underrated thriller with strong performances from its three leads. Vanessa Hudgens, in particular, surprised me with her taut performance as a young teenage runaway who may be the only key to linking a string of murders to a serial rapist.
½ November 26, 2014
Shitty and really, really boring. I was watching this for its Nic Cage value, but he's neither over-the-top nor awful. He's actually pretty restrained here and does a decent job. It's the rest of the cast that's godawful. John Cusack delivers what is probably the worst performance of his career. He's so bad, and actually plays this role more like you'd expect from Nic Cage. Vanessa Hudgens is just as bad, and 50 Cent is even worse. So as bad as this movie is, none of this is Nicolas Cage's fault. I actually feel bad for him because he legitimately tried and did a pretty good acting job here.
½ December 29, 2013
This could have been a lot better. The whole movie is very predictable, but what else can you expect when they reveal the serial killer from the start of the movie?
October 14, 2013
This film was very well acted and directed, especially for this genre. Great pacing throughout. Highly recommend it. Cage turns in a particular good performance.
October 1, 2013
The movie's only fresh element is the wintry setting, which shrouds everything in a mood of weary fatalism. Otherwise, it's the same old, same old, efficiently discharged and utterly disposable. still i liked this due to the cast cusak plays a good baddie.
September 6, 2013
The Frozen Ground is a watchable movie but it isn't an overly good one which is disappointing as it is based on a horrific true story with a lot of cinematic potential. The film is based upon events involving the Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen from the early 1980s (although he'd been abducting, killing and burying young women since 1971 and its been alleged he had 21 slain victims) who was caught in late-1983 after one of his abducted victims -- a teenage girl named Cindy Paulson -- escaped and made her way to authorities and reported Hansen. Although the girl's testimony wasn't taken as gospel and the authorities waited to make any arrests because they believed the named suspect was too meek and timid to be a serial killer. Ahem. For real. These events are all depicted in The Frozen Ground as the film follows an Alaskan State Trooper, Sgt. Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage - The Rock, Leaving Las Vegas) who actually believes Miss Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens - Spring Breakers, Sucker Punch) and is worried about her safety just in case her abductor still wants her dead. The quiet-crazy psycho killer is played by John Cusack (High Fidelity, One Crazy Summer) who does have some menacing glares here. His killer here is a bit more restrained and somber when compared to the last crazy killer he played in last year's The Paperboy. Cage might not have a single over-the-top theatrical moment in The Frozen Ground as he plays Sgt. Halcombe as a respectable straight-shooter ... and it is nice seeing that Cage can still do tranquil. This is the directing debut for Scott Walker (not that one) and it is adequate for a first-timer. The film gets most of the gist of the story correct and the acting is all credible but the pacing is a bit off and there is little actual suspense. It feels a bit more like a TV movie than a theatrical one but all directors have to start somewhere and there are many who probably wish their first one could be this "good".
August 28, 2013
So the setting is interesting ... Alaska. Beyond that there isn't anything special about this film. Cage and Cusack put on average performances. Hudgens is probably the best. The story is average and tells you who the killer is upfront which completely takes the suspense of the movie out. Overall its simply a very forgettable film.
½ January 25, 2016
Nicolas Cage delivers a good performance, but The Frozen Ground simply does not feel biographical whatsoever.
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