The Snowman Review

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Do detectives actually do any detective work anymore?

by Casimir Harlow Oct 13, 2017 at 9:45 PM

  • Movies review


    The Snowman Review

    Director Tomas Alfredson adapts Jo Nesbo's acclaimed Harry Hole book The Snowman with Michael Fassbender in the lead and the results are decidedly average.

    Clearly something went wrong during this production because the plot sounds excellent: "When an elite crime squad's lead detective investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit, the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall". Unfortunately there's very little sign of any of this, and perhaps the fact that the film was shot in early 2016 but underwent reshoots in 2017 highlights the problems which were found at test screening level. Even the trailer contains footage not in the finished product.
    What we do get is a very generic murder mystery featuring a detective who ticks every cliche in the book. He's a troubled genius whose notable cases are the stuff of legend; he's a raging alcoholic who regularly passes out in the freezing snow and wakes up in parks in the dead of winter. Sadly he does very little to bring any of these tropes to life, paying lip service to the alcoholism, and never really doing anything in the way of actual detective work. Marginally more interesting is the serial killer he's investigating, whose background story is possibly the only emotional moment in the entire film, although he tips his hand quite early on so the reveal not only feels anticlimactic but also implausibly convoluted.

    The Snowman
    The Snowman offers the antithesis of the clever plotting and twisted machinations of Alfredson's earlier Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (detractors might hate the languid pace but the intricate chess-game narrative is exquisite), as it feels like absolutely no thought has gone into the story whatsoever. Almost everything that happens to the 'lead detective' is instigated by the killer actually phoning in a tip-off, or feeding him the next clue, making you wonder whether the crime would have ever been solved if the killer hadn't decided to actually make contact with the lead detective in the first place. Come the conclusion, you'll be scratching your head wondering: is that it? With Rebecca Ferguson's attempt at playing the 'brilliant new recruit' obviously on the cutting room floor, instead required to lurk around in the shadows with her own, equally anticlimactic, agenda that involves several flashbacks to a miscast, unrecognisable, and badly dubbed Val Kilmer (the poor guy's recovering from throat cancer, so please don't give him a speaking role if he can't speak) and also a going-nowhere arc involving J.K. Simmons' ruthless businessman.

    A TV movie trussed up with big screen pretentions when it simply has nothing to offer

    The lead character of Harry Hole himself is precisely that: an empty space where a character should be. Fassbender sleepwalks through entire scenes, as if a little fake red eye makes for an alcoholic or sleep deprivation. He's playing a walking legend, by all accounts, but has no idea how to get to grips with the character because there's simply nothing beneath the cliche. Apparently the inspiration behind the production came from the idea that the studios wanted a franchise like the Alex Cross movie adaptations (because that turned out well, didn't it?!) and were impressed by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and wanted to cash in on the Nordic detective gravy train. On this evidence, however, this is the death of a franchise even before it started (the second Fassbender's killed this year alone, with a third where he made a damn good effort, although much of that's not his fault).

    Certainly The Snowman is unobjectionable. It peddles in dead-average as if it that was its goal all along. And you can see why maybe Scorsese jumped ship early in the production process, only to leave some cash behind the bar and his editor, Thelma Shoonmaker, with the unpleasant job of having to pull something coherent - and under 2 hours in duration, no doubt - out of this mess. But at least Scorsese could have wrapped the whole thing up in some heady style, and elicited some decent performances out of the strong cast. As it is this is generic, derivative filmmaking at its worst; a TV movie trussed up with big screen pretentions when it simply has nothing to offer.

    The Rundown

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