The Frozen Ground Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.