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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Snowman movie review: winter blunderland

The Snowman red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A clichéd loose-cannon cop is on a case of murdered women in faux Norway. And it’s not even a decent procedural. Sexist, pointless, thoroughly awful.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast; love a good murder mystery
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

He’s a drunk — like, a seriously falling-down, passed-out-in-the-streets drunk — and a walking personal disaster. His ex just can’t live with him anymore and refuses to tell their teenaged son that he is, in fact, the kid’s dad, he’s that unreliable, but she nevertheless continues to find him irresistibly attractive. He’s a cop who goes to pieces without a case, but with a case, he’s utterly brilliant (but also still a drunk). Which is why his boss covers for him, backdating the paperwork that turns a week-long bender into a preapproved leave of absence. He’s a total fuckup, an angst-ridden mess, a loose cannon who doesn’t follow the rules, and yet he’s also a seductive genius (allegedly) that no one can live without.

“Hellooooo, alcoholic angsty cop lurking...”

“Hellooooo, alcoholic angsty cop lurking…”tweet

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

There isn’t a single thing about Oslo detective Harry Hole that is unique, new, or even vaguely interesting, except his name, which is presumably his porn name serving for some reason as a nom de police, and even then, it only elicits snorts of derision from the viewer. (Maybe there is something vaguely fresh in the Harry Hole series of novels by Nordic noir novelist Jo Nesbø, one of which this is based on, but if so, none of it made it onto the screen.) Hole is not intriguing, not appealing, not anything,tweet not even here, where he is played by the usually hella sexy Michael Fassbender (Alien: Covenant, X-Men: Apocalypse). So strike that off The Snowman’s list of Potential Reasons for This Movie to Exist.

Harry Hole? This cop has a nom de police, and it’s his porn name.

The mystery Hole is investigating is about a serial killer who builds snowmen outside the houses of his victims… snowmen that are supposedly ominous because they look right at the house, as if no one in their right mind would ever do such a thing. Hole’s partner on this case — the one he doesn’t need and would rather not work with, of course, the one who has been foisted on the lone-wolf genius — Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson: The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) posits that the killer is set off by the falling snow. No one in this movie set in Oslo — the Oslo in Norway, the Norway in Scandinavia, the Scandinavia known for being snowy — in winter gently suggests to Bratt that this is like theorizing that the killer is set off by people breathing around him, and isn’t very useful as a clue. Instead, bizarrely, the movie agrees with her, and builds a story around a killer who is set off by (among other things) falling snow.

The mind boggles, which is the only relief from unrelenting tediumtweet the experience of watching this movie offers.

Michael Fassbender is... not the Snowman. (I really was afraid that was gonna be a twist: The cop is the killer! Cuz that’d something we’ve never seen before, noooo.)

Michael Fassbender is… not the Snowman.tweet (I really was afraid that was gonna be a twist: The cop is the killer! Cuz that’d something we’ve never seen before, noooo.)

So what else might The Snowman have to offer? An exotic locale? Well, sure, director Tomas Alfredson — whose last film was the stylish Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and before that he made the meditative Swedish vampire drama Let the Right One In — shot in Oslo and Bergen and in the countryside in between… and yet all traces of anything Norwegian, such as the language, either spoken or written, have been removed. And the international cast — Irish, British, American, Swedish, French — speaks with a polyglot of accents, including some that appear to have been invented. (I don’t know what the heck sort of accent J.K. Simmons [Patriots Day, The Accountant], totally wasted as a local politician, thinks he’s deploying here. And what the actual heck is going on with Val Kilmer [Palo Alto, Planes], as a cop in a flashback subplot? He sounds as if he’s been overdubbed by a completely different actor, one with marbles in his mouth and a bizarre idea of a generic Scandinavian accent.) It’s like a Disneyland version of Norway.

Shot in Oslo and Bergen, and yet all traces of anything Norwegian, such as the language, have been removed.

The Snowman is at least a solid procedural, then? Nope. Hole, of course, is no fan of method or strategy beyond striking out on his own, though Bratt too cultivates an impressive disdain for the sort of communication and teamwork criminal investigation demands… all the better to ensure she becomes a damsel in distress. (Hole’s ex, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg [Independence Day: Resurgence, Nymphomaniac], also gets to play damsel in distress. Hooray for female representation!) But by the time The Snowman takes this sexist turn, it has already taken another that is infinitely more offensive, so that barely registers, in the grand scheme of pointless awfulness that is this movie.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other theatrical releases.

red light 0 stars

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The Snowman (2017) | directed by Tomas Alfredson
US/Can release: Oct 20 2017
UK/Ire release: Oct 13 2017

MPAA: rated R for grisly images, violence, some language, sexuality and brief nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, gory images)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

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

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Jessica Hanson

    Please describe the other turn it takes that is “infinitely more offensive”. You may spoil, I’m not gonna waste my time on this crap anyway.

  • .

    The killer is targeting women who have had abortions, or with children by men other than their husbands/partners, because his mother was abused by his uncle, who actually turned out to be his father. You’d think the killer would target men, in this case, but hatred of women is always a lazy motivation for male writers. And of course all the women are merely pawns of the plot, not characters themselves. They are “slutty lamps”.

  • shazwagon

    I have tried reading some of Nesbo and I must say the books are awful. Maybe, it’s the translation but they come off as incomprehensible messes. So, I am (kind of) relieved to read all my apprehensions have translated to the screen. (Does it make this a good adaptation?)

    Also, let it be known that I am a fan of Nordic Noir and crime fiction in general.

  • Siri Dennis

    I can confirm that Harry Hole is a terrible name even in Norwegian; no parent in their right mind would call their son Harry, it being shorthand for utterly naff. “That’s a really Harry outfit”.

  • sounds just terrible. the trailer made it look like a made-for-TV-movie to begin with.

  • Eric Hoheisel

    Too bad. I would have seen this until reading the review. Is there even any good gruesome horror ala Saw or Seven?

  • Patrick Stirling

    Contrary to another commenter here, I like the books! But haven’t read as far as The Snowman yet. A minor niggle: you say in the review “His ex […] refuses to tell their teenaged son that he is, in fact, the kid’s dad”. In the books he is most certainly not the kids dad – the kid’s name is Oleg because is real dad is Russian, and in one book Harry helps with Oleg meeting his dad. Perhaps they changed this for the movie, which imo is bad, it’s important to the character development that Harry isn’t Oleg’s biological father.

  • Have Borchsenius

    His name is pronounced Holy, not Hole.

  • PJK

    Ah, this is a shame. I really enjoyed the other movie made from a book by Jo Nesbø: Headhunters. Looking back through the review archive I see that MaryAnn also thoroughly enjoyed that one.

    As far as I can recall the Harry Hole books in general are well received. Not having read the book or having seen the movie makes it hard to judge how faithful the movie adaptation is, but most of the reviews I’ve checked for the book don’t mention any of the negative things that MaryAnn mentions, so I’m guessing someone has taken great liberties during that process. Or the reviewers all gloss over the nasty stuff.

  • Janice

    Your review is wrong in that Harry is not Oleg’s father. That is a grave error to make in your (mis)understanding of this series. Makes me question the validity of the rest of your review. The book is excellent!

  • Scarecrowen1120

    In the original Norwegian, yes. In the movie everyone just calls him “Hole”

  • Have you seen the movie? I am not reviewing the book or the book series. I am reviewing the film… and the film clearly states that Harry is the kid’s father.

  • Not in the movie, it isn’t.

  • In the books he is most certainly not the kids dad

    In the movie, he is. So your niggle is with the filmmakers.

  • bronxbee

    yes! i’m a big fan of scandanavian noir, so of course, i gave Nesbo a shot. i read exactly two and was so bored i almost didn’t finish the second one. so i really wasn’t interested in this movie (though michael fassbender *sigh). glad to hear it wasn’t worth my time.

  • bronxbee

    i believe it’s mentioned in one of the novels that it’s a weird name.

  • No.

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