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.

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