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"THE SNOWMAN"
(2017) (Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Thriller: A detective tries to solve a missing persons case that might be tied to similar events from years ago.
PLOT:
Harry Hole (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) is a troubled detective in Oslo who's still close with his ex-girlfriend, Rakel (CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG), and her teenage son, Oleg (MICHAEL YATES), even after she's now involved with another man, plastic surgeon Mathias (JONAS KARLSSON). Harry gets a new partner in the form of Katrine Bratt (REBECCA FERGUSON) and goes along with her on a missing persons case that turns out to be just one of several, all noted by the presence of recently built snowmen. Even more troubling is an ominous note that Harry has received that indicates an anonymous serial killer is watching him, something that also happened to another detective there in the past, Rafto (VAL KILMER), who ended up dead.

Looking for connective clues, Harry discovers that some of the missing women had appointments with Dr. Vetlesen (DAVID DENCIK), an OBGYN who performs abortions and appears suspicious to both detectives. But Katrine has her focus set on philanthropist Arve Stop (J.K. SIMMONS) who's appeared in photos with the likes of Vetlesen and others, and appears to have a salacious appetite for younger women. With people ending up dead and dismembered, Harry tries to figure out who the killer is and stop them before they strike again.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
As a former aspiring screenwriter, I recall various rules that one is supposed to follow when writing a script. Of course, all rules are meant to be broken, but some of them nonetheless make sense and probably should be followed.

Among them were things such as entering any given scene as late as possible, and that everything on the written page should be moving the story forward in one way or another. However, I don't ever recall hearing a rule that stated something along the lines of "don't worry about having too many scenes as some of them could be cut."

Any screenwriter will tell you that it's common for directors, stars, producers, editors, and others with their hands in the mix to alter the script either when shooting it or later in the editing bay. And they do so for any number of reasons, be that test audience reactions, the need to trim the running time or sometimes just creative ego.

But I don't think I've ever heard a director explain away chopped scenes and subsequent negative critical response to their film by saying that due to a rushed and then truncated filming schedule ten to fifteen percent of the screenplay wasn't shot. Wait, what?

Yet that's the defense given by director Tomas Alfredson in explaining why the dramatic serial killer thriller "The Snowman" is something of a disjointed mess. How much of that is true is only known by the helmer and scribes Hossein Amini and Peter Straughan who adapted the novel of the same name by Jo NesbÝ. But it's certainly visible up on the screen as things start badly -- from a narrative, editing and basic understanding of what's occurring sense -- and don't get much better from there.

I'm assuming the source novel works -- and maybe the original screenplay did as well, as why else would the likes of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J. K. Simmons and the long-missing Val Kilmer sign on?

Fassbender plays a cop in Norway who's troubled, although we're never quite sure why (I'm guessing the answer lies in that ten to fifteen percent of missing script). After a harrowing but poorly edited prologue where a boy loses his mother, we see Fassbender's Harry passed out, bottle still in hand, in some public park. He then goes to work (he's a detective), gets reprimanded for an unapproved absence, wants a case (and his boss apologizes for not enough murders in Oslo), and then gets teamed with a junior detective (Ferguson) who's working a missing persons case.

At the same time, he's received an anonymous note that indicates the author of that has been watching him and closes with a stick figure drawing of a snowman. And when Harry gets to the home of the missing mother, there's a snowman in the yard! Cue the dramatic "dum-dum-dum" revelatory music.

At this point, everything was so bad that I sort of wished the snowman was really the killer and was just messing with the cop by doing the standard pose outdoors in the snowy environs. After all, goofy camp would have been more enjoyable than what's offered here, and we all know there's really only one way to kill a snowman and that's lure him into someplace warm. Let the temperature games begin!

Alas, that doesn't occur, and thus we get some possible red herring characters, although they're clearly not the killer (as that would be too obvious) and I correctly picked the perp out of the cinematic lineup quite early (and thus waited for the characters in the film to play catch up).

Until then, we get to see Fassbender play a surrogate father figure character of sorts to the teenage boy (Michael Yates) of Harry's ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), all while flashbacks show Val Kilmer as a detective years ago similarly being taunted by the "snowman." The only thing of interest with those is how badly someone's voice has been dubbed over Kilmer's moving lips, although the audio was also off in other parts of the film.

Like much of the rest of the film, the segments with Kilmer are poorly set up and edited, leading one to guess that problem lies with the missing script pages. Or maybe it's just been handled poorly in general. Whatever the case, "The Snowman" is a prime example of a thriller that simply doesn't thrill, let alone work, and that it's probably a good idea to shoot all of the script when filming a movie. It rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed October 18, 2017 / Posted October 20, 2017


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