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The Frozen Ground review

The Frozen Ground yellow light Nicolas Cage Vanessa Hudgens

In a rote cat-and-mouse cop-and-serial-killer story, Vanessa Hudgens’ “victim” is far more compelling than either cop Nicolas Cage or killer John Cusack.
I’m “biast” (pro): like Cage and Cusack

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Serial-killer movies are so much more numerous that actual serial killers, and most of them ignore the victims to focus on the predators, which becomes — in the pop culture aggregate — just one more indignity perpetrated on the dead, who so often were targeted in the first place because they were voiceless, ignored by society, and wouldn’t be missed: they were prostitutes, runaways, drug addicts, homeless, or all of the above. So while newbie New Zealand filmmaker Scott Walker’s The Frozen Ground is a rocky mess that never finds solid footing, it is notable for how Walker chose to frame his true story of how Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen was finally captured in the early 1980s. The only character with any significant personal journey here, in what is essentially a pretty rote police procedural, is Cindy Paulson, a teenaged runaway working the streets of Anchorage who escaped from Hansen’s captivity. She has to learn how to trust the police again — specifically, Detective Jack Halcombe of the Alaska State Police — after the local authorities dismiss her story of kidnapping, rape, torture, and imminent death at Hansen’s hands: “You can’t rape a prostitute,” one cop laughs. Walker might have found his footing if he gave his tale over far more to Paulson: Vanessa Hudgens (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) is astonishingly good as the deeply wounded young woman, and Walker clearly has a line on just what it takes to survive on the streets: one scene, in which Paulson overcomes her aversion to dancing nude on a strip-club stage — she desperately needs some money — by taking a hit of crystal meth is achingly sad, all the more so because it rings with pragmatic truth. The procedural stuff is sporadically intriguing — jargon flies by, challenging you to keep up; there’s a peek into the very early days of FBI criminal profiling — but Nicolas Cage (The Croods) as Halcombe and John Cusack (The Raven) as Hansen don’t have stories anywhere near as compelling as Paulson’s.

US/Canada release date: Aug 23 2013 | UK release date: Jul 19 2013

MPAA: rated R for violent content, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (contains very strong language, strong sex references, nudity and drug use)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • RogerBW

    It’s a very fine line between showing the horrible things someone does in order to point out how horrible he is, and showing them so that the audience can simply enjoy them. And Hansen would have been an excellent example of the banality of this sort of killer: he really wasn’t a terribly interesting person.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    And he’s not the focus of this movie. But he should have been even less the focus of the movie than he is.

    Not that I don’t loves me some John Cusack, of course…