The Snowman | Episode 73

Posted October 20, 2017

-review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer

There are several moments at which one might realize The Snowman is a special sort of bad movie, that it belongs to a strain of ineptitude rarely bought for $35 million these days.

One might realize this when — after 45 minutes of piecing together the titular serial killer’s seemingly ideological motivation for dismembering several Norwegians — his investigators toss out a theory that seems solely obliged to the movie’s title: What if he only killed when it was snowing, you guys?

One might realize this when Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), who’s been sleeping stone-drunk outside in the Oslo winter for several consecutive nights, decides to spend an evening in his fairly nice apartment listening to his vast vinyl collection while supine on the floor.

But one simply must realize something's not right with The Snowman when Val Kilmer (of all would-be reclamation projects) shows up in a hastily announced flashback. He looks ready to keel over, and all of his lines are overdubbed in a voice that sounds nothing like Val Kilmer's.

While director Tomas Alfredson's moody depiction of Oslo as a lantern-lit snowglobe goes a little ways toward hiding The Snowman’s incoherence, rest assured it will eventually dawn on you. And when it does, you will wonder about issues big and small: Why did Chloe Sauvigny play twins in that scene that didn’t amount to anything? Why was that one guy outside with no coat? Why, uh, snowmen anyway?

It’s trash, but not trashy. Moments of lunacy aside, The Snowman banks everything on the oldest, tiredest, so-hard-boiled-that-egg-don’t-even-crack noir cliches: the drunk, once-great detective, the optimistic rookie cop attracted to him regardless, the detective’s ex-girlfriend whose only job is to find peril in the end, the police chief who can’t cover for the detective much longer, the wealthy and powerful mystery man in town. Out the same month in which Netflix's Mindhunter asks its viewers to constantly reevaluate the ethics and usefulness of our serial killer fascination, The Snowman heads off why most viewers even enjoy the genre in the first place. The film’s opening scene reveals the moment that broke the killer as a child: his mother takes her own life after being abused and abandoned by the boy’s neglectful father. It’s like the old adage goes: if you’re gonna make a movie about a murderer who builds snow monuments to each victim, never leave the audience interested in his motivation.

This is the sort of incurious approach the film takes with every character, freezing the actors from each other. Gifted a cast of Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sauvigny, Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons and the artist formerly known as Val Kilmer, the script isn’t even a little inquisitive about how any of the characters might impact or reveal each other. That fact is particularly glaring when it comes to Detective Hole and the women in his life. (Did I just type “Detective Hole and the women in his life”?) His partner (Ferguson) and ex-lover (Gainsbourg) like him despite the fact that he’s impossible to have a conversation with. He’s apparently too haunted to even strike the required pose of liquored-up machismo. And haunted by what, come to think of it? Seasonal affective disorder? We never even learn why he’s so unreachable; he just is.

A lot of things about this adaptation of Jo Nesbø's 2007 novel just are. I’m not here to ruin it more than it ruins itself, but there’s no reason for the killer to build snowmen, other than snow is highly available and it’s a creepy idea. The holes in this movie (Hole among them) are the kind that just glare at you as the mystery sputters along. A pulpier tack might cause you to shrug at some of the same technical flaws. For instance, imagining Renny Harlin's The Snowman is fun. But no, what we actually got is oddly conservative for a movie in which multiple people are violently decapitated. Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Let The Right One In) is too good, or maybe just too serious, for the material and renders it ultimately worse than a wilder, less skilled director might.

Some folks might tell you The Snowman is bad-good. I think they might be having genuine fun dissecting how bad the movie is, but the film itself is not chaotic enough to earn entry into that category. For bad-good, I’m going to need more people to actually yell, “It’s him! It’s the Snowman!” These are my terms, Mister Police.


All The Movies We've Reviewed

101 Dalmatians
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Things I Hate About You
127 Hours
22 Jump Street
47 Meters Down
Across The Universe
A Dangerous Method
A Few Good Men
Air Force One
A League of Their Own
Alien 3
Alien: Covenant
Alien: Resurrection
American Animals
American Hustle
American Made
American Psycho
American Splendor
A Simple Plan
A Single Man
A Star Is Born
Atomic Blonde
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator
Baby Driver
Baby Mama
Bad Company
Bad Lieutenant
Bad Moms
Bad Santa
Basic Instinct
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Beasts of No Nation
Beauty And The Beast
Before Sunrise
Behind Enemy Lines
Black Hawk Down
Black Mass
Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Bleed For This
Body Heat
Boogie Nights
Bridge of Spies
Bull Durham
Call Me By Your Name
Captain Fantastic
Catch Me If You Can
Chariots Of Fire
Chasing Amy
Child's Play
Christmas Vacation
Cinderella Man
Con Air
Cool Runnings
Crazy Rich Asians
Crimson Tide
Danny Collins
Dante's Peak
Dead Poets Society
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Impact
Deja Vu
Demolition Man
Dirty Dancing
Donnie Brasco
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
Dude, Where's My Car?
Easy A
Eddie The Eagle
Ed Wood
Employee of the Month
Erin Brockovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Event Horizon
Everybody Wants Some!!
Executive Decision
Ex Machina
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Fatal Attraction
Field Of Dreams
Finding Forrester
For Love Of The Game
Friday Night Lights
Game Night
Gangs of New York
Garden State
Gone Girl
Gone In Sixty Seconds
Grosse Pointe Blank
Hail, Caesar!
Half Baked
Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Head of State
He Got Game
Hocus Pocus
Hollywood Ending
Hot Tub Time Machine
How High
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Ingrid Goes West
Inherent Vice
Inside Man
Inside Out
In The Land Of Women
In The Line of Fire
Into The Wild
I, Tonya
Jaws: The Revenge
John Wick
Jurassic Park III
Jurassic World
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
King Cobra
Kingdom Of Heaven
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Lady Bird
La La Land
Leave No Trace
Less Than Zero
Lethal Weapon
Little Miss Sunshine
Love & Mercy
Love, Simon
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mamma Mia
Matchstick Men
Midnight Special
Million Dollar Arm
Mission: Impossible
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Mississippi Grind
Mo' Better Blues
Mom and Dad
Money For Nothing
Moonrise Kingdom
Mr. Mom
Murder at 1600
My Cousin Vinny
National Lampoon's Vacation
Never Say Never
Ocean's Twelve
Old School
One Hour Photo
Open Water
Orange County
Out of Africa
Part of Me
Peter's Friends
Phantom Thread
Picture Perfect
Practical Magic
Public Enemies
Purple Rain
Raising Arizona
Red Dragon
Red Eye
Red Sparrow
Remember The Titans
Reversal Of Fortune
Rock Of Ages
Run All Night
Save The Last Dance
School Ties
Scream 2
Simply Complicated
Sleepaway Camp
Small Soldiers
Snakes On A Plane
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Southside With You
Space Jam
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
State and Main
Step Up
Steve Jobs
Sweet Home Alabama
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Addams Family
The Big Chill
The Big Sick
The Bling Ring
The Brady Bunch Movie
The Campaign
The Cell
The Cloverfield Paradox
The Color of Money
The Disaster Artist
The End of the Tour
The Family Man
The Fast and The Furious
The Fighter
The Flintstones
The Fly
The Fog
The Fugitive
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Hateful Eight
The Hate U Give
The Holiday
The Hours
The Hunt For Red October
The Illusionist
The Indian In The Cupboard
The Insider
The Judge
The Jungle Book
The Last of the Mohicans
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Martian
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
The Meg
The Mexican
The Mighty Ducks
The Mission
The Mosquito Coast
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Natural
The Negotiator
The Nice Guys
The Night Before
The Pagemaster
The Perfect Storm
The Poseidon Adventure
The Prestige
The Queen
The Recruit
The Revenant
The River Wild
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Rules of Attraction
The Shadow
The Shallows
The Sixth Sense
The Social Network
The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
The Thing
The Truman Show
The Watch
The Witches of Eastwick
This Is Where I Leave You
¬°Three Amigos!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Tropic Thunder
Van Wilder
Varsity Blues
V For Vendetta
Welcome To Me
While You Were Sleeping
White House Down
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Wild Things
Wild Wild West
Win It All
Without A Paddle
Wyatt Earp
Young Adult
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