The Snowman is one of those films that has surefire hit written all over it. Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) in the director’s chair, screenwriters with some great films under their belts and a cast that includes the ultra-talented Michael Fassbender (Hunger), Charlotte Gainsborg (Nymphomaniac), J.K Simmons (Whiplash) and Val Kilmer (Heat). So how in Lord’s name this film turns out to be such an absurd, at times hilarious, howler is absolutely baffling.
Based on the bestselling book by Jo Nesbo, The Snowman tells the story of a woman who mysteriously disappears on the first night snowfall. The case is being investigated by Harry Hole (Fassbender), a flawed but gifted detective, who heads up the serious crime squad in Oslo, Norway, and has had a talented new recruit assigned to his team – played by Rebecca Ferguson (Life). When the two of them make connections between unsolved, grisly murders from the past and a suspected serial killer, the duo become embroiled in a race against the clock to stop the coming carnage.
To be frank about The Snowman, the only aspect that is in any way passable is the ever-reliable Fassbender. His performance as the alcoholic detective gives the movie a gritty, plausible feel, as the rest of the cast flounder with the script, or partake in what could only be described as outright awful acting.
The director’s insistence on all the actors having a proper English accent, as opposed to trying for a Scandinavian twang, plays havoc with all the American actors. Simmons comes across as some sort of panto baddie and, much to my amusement, the filmmakers deemed it necessary to noticeably dub over Kilmer’s voice. It’s an astonishing sight to behold that makes his performance twenty times worse than it already is.
Tomas Alfredson’s heart cannot have been in this. It’s as if he intentionally went out to create a parody of what should be a dark, gritty, Scandinavian based thriller. Even the brutal deaths that occur are farcical and, believe me, they try their damnest to shock. Groan-inducing twists are telegraphed so badly that you’ll have your head in your hands, wondering what Jo Nesbo would think of this cack-handed slaughter of his source material. The optimist in me would like to think that the studio forced the director’s hand in some of the decisions, but there’s just too much absurdity to warrant that theory.
What The Snowman has going for it is an unintentional level of hilarity – especially concerning Kilmer – that will definitely make this a watchable affair for some people. But make no mistake, this is terrible film-making from a highly talented group of people. And that’s the most fascinating aspect of the film. Kev Lovski