I wonder if because I was born and raised in San Diego, I like when snow is mixed in my murder mysteries. It was great in Fargo, Thin Ice, and this year’s Wind River. So when there’s a movie that one of Britain’s biggest production companies is doing, and is produced by Martin Scorsese, and adapted from a bestselling Jo Nesbo novel…I’m interested. When I saw the talented cast, I couldn’t wait. That cast includes Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole (which is a character name that sounds more like a porn star), J.K. Simmons as a high-powered businessman, Chloe Sevigny as twins, Rebecca Ferguson as a new police officer, David Dencik (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor) as the creepy doctor, Charlotte Gainsbourg as the ex-girlfriend, Toby Jones (who I wish would’ve been in more scenes), and even talented British stage and TV actress Anne Reid has a small part as a concerned neighbor. The one weak link is Val Kilmer, who is sporting his Jim Morrison look, and doing his dialogue like a drunk Jimbo. It was rather distracting to listen to him in his handful of scenes, although he has one of the best scenes in the movie. On the top of a snowcapped mountain, he peers over to look at a dead body. Birds are all over the corpse, and he fires his gun in the air so they’ll scatter. We see the blood, and dismembered body, which looks like it could’ve been the movie poster for Anatomy of a Murder.
Director Tomas Alfredson, who did the terrific Let the Right One In, and the dreadfully boring Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, decided that this could be set in Norway and have all the characters speak English. That usually doesn’t bother me, but after doing a Q&A over the weekend in which somebody asked about why in Loving Vincent, the characters had British accents.
The movie starts with a boy in a farmhouse being scolded by a man that’s sleeping with his mother. The abuse is directed at his mother for not teaching the kid enough about history. This leads to the mom dying. Jump ahead to a drunken Harry Hole sleeping off a (fass)bender near a park. He’s a cop that’s getting into trouble for his drinking, and he doesn’t have a lot to do, since there aren’t many crimes he can investigate. That soon changes, when he’s sent letters from the “snowman” with little poems about the people he is killing.
We watch as Harry still acts as a father figure to the son of his old girlfriend. It’s also refreshing to see how well he seems to get along with her new boyfriend Matthias (Jonas Karlsson), who’s a plastic surgeon that doesn’t mind writing prescriptions for Harry or bailing him out of a jam with a phone call.
There are some weird flashbacks that show Val Kilmer also investigating the Snowman killer, and also hitting the bottle.
I remember when Roger Ebert reviewed No Country For Old Men, he was so bothered by the fact that the killer (Javier Bardem) carried around compressed air and a cattle gun to kill people with. He said it made no sense and wouldn’t be very practical to dispose of people that way. I thought about that when the killer in this movie always built a snowman outside where the dead bodies are left, as his calling card. Something about plotting a murder, and hoping you’re not seen in the immediate area, but….standing around building a snowman in the snow. Maybe that’s why he didn’t bother with the carrot nose and scarf around the neck; but that element of the film still works at creating tension.
As the story goes on, it doesn’t work as well. Things get rather preposterous, and you get lots of cliches. My wife and I were also bothered by the gruesomeness. This movie is geared towards adults, not teenagers. It would’ve been nice if it just played like a psychological drama instead of becoming a gorefest, with limbs being taken off and heads decapitated.
The red-herrings were fun, until I started thinking about how….we really needed a lot of coincidences and orphans running around this town.
This Nordic noir isn’t nearly as good as Dragon Tattoo, but it’s serviceable entertainment.
I’m giving it 2 ½ stars out of 5.