The Snowman (2017)

*. Yes, it’s a very bad movie, But director Tomas Alfredson, who has done good work in a similar vein, had some excuses.
*. Take the patchwork plot, which doesn’t have holes so much as giant gaps and lots of dots left unconnected. I’m not sure what the point was of the subplot involving the businessman Arve Støp (J. K. Simmons doing a pretty good Max von Sydow). And what was with all the stuff set in Bergen nine years earlier?
*. Well, here’s the excuse for that: because of the shooting schedule big chunks of the original story couldn’t be filmed. Yes, this is something that somebody should have thought of or taken into consideration when the film was in production, but . . . there you have it. Meanwhile, the film is a full two hours long, so how much more time did they think they needed to have it all make sense? I don’t think an extra fifteen minutes would have been enough. Maybe they should have done it as a cable series.
*. The second item that needs some explanation is the terrible way Val Kilmer’s lines are dubbed. Why? Well, apparently Kilmer was recovering from cancer and he couldn’t deliver the lines properly. So there you have another excusing factor. But again, this is something they might have found a work-around for when they were going into production.
*. Once you take away the excuses though, this is still a bad movie.
*. In the first place, it’s just the same Stieg Larsson stuff we all know by heart. I’m not saying Jo Nesbø (the author of the Harry Hole novels) was ripping Larsson off, because I think both writers were working independently in the same direction, but in 2017 the story here feels really formulaic. And it doesn’t help that it ends on such a ridiculous and predictable note.
*. The killer actually has a decent back story and motivation, though there’s no explanation of his weapon of choice, a handheld wire cutter that he uses to sever various body parts. This stuck out for me because I’d seen the same device used by a black-gloved killer in Dario Argento’s underrated thriller Trauma (1995), where its use did have a point, and the killer had an even more interesting back story.
*. That same sense I had of missing the point came up with regard to other things in the movie as well. Alfredson likes to shoot characters through windows, but I couldn’t see where this served a thematic or indeed any other purpose. And while Norway has some beautiful scenery, allowing a number of scenes here to be shot in dramatic locations, the effect is to make the movie look like a commercial for snow tires. The environment has none of the overbearing natural presence as in Insomnia, for example.
*. I have no idea what Michael Fassbender was going for in his performance. Brooding intensity? Why the raspy voice? I get it, he’s a tortured soul. But lighten up, man. It’s like he’s channeling Christian Bale.
*. Yes, his name is Harry Hole. Was that meant as a joke? Perhaps not. Apparently “Hole” is a place name in Norway. It means a round and isolated hill and is pronounced as two syllables.
*. At least Fassbender looks great, considering all Harry does is drink and smoke. And I mean he smokes a lot. I can’t remember the last time I saw a new movie with a character lighting up this much. I thought studios were getting out of that.
*. It just won’t do. There’s too much talent here for this to have been such a complete misfire. Even the identity of the killer is easy to guess long before the end, which comes via some hokey staging of potted psychology and a way-too-tidy disposal of the killer that you can (literally, in a long shot) see coming a mile away.
*. Still, despite being such a lousy film, both messy and formulaic at the same time (which is no mean feat), it does manage to exert a basic level of fascination. Maybe I’m just especially fond of the genre, but these types of movies do keep me watching even when they’re not very well done. I can’t help being a fan, even when I’m being let down.

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