“The Snowman” looks so great on paper – director Tomas Alfredsson (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “Let the Right One In”) helms it, Martin Scorsese is executive producer, and Michael Fassbender stars – and it shouldn’t go wrong in execution, but holy damn, it does.
It’s so bad that it would be justified if Alfredsson disowned it. Instead, he’s stated in interviews that production was rushed and they weren’t able to film 15 per cent of the screenplay. That explains some plot holes that a monster truck could drive through.
The story follows Harry Hole… That’s seriously his name – but to be fair, it’s supposed to be pronounced “holy.” Michael Fassbender stars as Harry, who’s supposed to be a legendary Norwegian detective. We meet him well outside of his glory days as he wakes up in a hut on a children’s playground after a night of drinking.
Harry is called to investigate a missing persons case with Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), a detective who’s worked with missing persons, and when they find a snowman on the woman’s lawn, it launches them on an incoherent investigation into who’s making these snowmen and killing these women. Their first lead is a cold case from nine years ago about a missing woman. Harry stumbles across it because Katrine took the case from the files room.
The story’s an incomprehensible mess. There’s a huge sub-plot about Oslo putting in a bid to host the Winter Olympics, which starts to feel irrelevant to the case rather quickly. The film’s trailer suggests that the killer taunts the police, but it’s only one card that reads “Hello mister police,” telling Harry that he’s leaving a snowman somewhere. He literally gives Mr. Police no clues – unless you count the not-so-creepy snowmen.
The two editors fail to make a coherent story, as new developments come and go in a confusing mess. If it’s true a lot of pages of the screenplay weren’t even filmed, they wouldn’t have had much to work with – and there are obvious pieces of the puzzle missing. It’s truly just a hack job of a film.
The editing’s most bizarre aspect is Val Kilmer’s role. The first time we hear him talking we don’t even see his face, and when we see him speaking, his lines are horribly dubbed by another actor. It’s a strange performance since two of the scenes he’s in are completely silent. He was reportedly recovering from a kind-of oral cancer and his tongue was swollen – so his lines likely were hard to understand – but it’s distracting that they have to edit around him talking and the ADR looks terrible. It would have been better to recast the role, but instead it’s lazy that they left it in there knowing how bad it looks. His performance is really the only bad aspect of the cast – everyone else is fine – just because his scenes are so awkward.
For the rest of the cast, it’s random seeing some of these actors for bit roles – like Chloe Sevigny who shows up as twins and is never seen again. J.K. Simmons plays a businessman at the heart of the Winter Olympics sub-plot. His character randomly takes a picture of a woman and then goes behind a cabinet as he has his bodyguard proposition her to come up to his room. Seriously. Scenes like these make this a train-wreck, but one where you really can’t look away.
This film’s based on Jø Nesbo’s series of books featuring Harry Hole, but the character likely won’t be on the big screen again anytime soon. He’s not that interesting, and based on what we see of him, he doesn’t seem like a great detective, either. The most characterization we get is that he’s a drunk and a father figure to an ex-girlfriend’s son, as he seemed to be his stepdad at one point. Katrine Bratt almost gets more characterization than him, and she’s fine.
A problem with the film is that it lacks any real tension. All the trailers claim it’s based on the “terrifying best-seller,” but there’s no terror and the only chilling thing about it is how cold Norway looks. Everything that could be gritty turns out to be silly – and the snowmen aren’t ominous at all. One thing that could have been scary is if they took a page out of the playbook of “The Office” and made a whole field of snowmen Harry would have to navigate through. But unfortunately, “The Snowman” doesn’t have a creative bone in its snowy body.
– by Daniel Prinn