A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Andrew Garfield’s romantic medical drama “Breathe,” the ice cold crime drama “The Snowman” and the controversial “Una.”
There was a time when serial killers ruled the movie theatres.
Movies like Kiss the Girls, Se7en and Silence of the Lambs were big hits and law enforcement types like Alex Cross and Clarice Starling were big draws. Now those stories have moved to the small screen and television shows like CSI and Criminal Minds track down the kinds of killers their big screen counterparts used to stalk.
This weekend serial killers return to the movies in the form of The Snowman, a Michael Fassbender film based on a novel by Jo Nesbø.
Fassbender plays Harry Hole, leader of an elite special victims unit charged with investigating a grisly murder on the first snow of winter. He believes it is the work of serial killer known as The Snowman.
Teaming with Katrine Bratt (Mission: Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson) he is determined to catch the killer before the next snowfall.
Scott Bonn, criminology professor at Drew University, says audiences are drawn to serial killer movies in much the same way they are attracted to car accidents.
“The actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold,” he wrote in the book Why We Love Serial Killers, “but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the spectacle.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a serial killing as “a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone.”
Hollywood defines them by the box office they draw, and has never been shy about portraying serial killers or the police who track them down.
One of the first movies to take advantage of the fascination with serial killers was 1931’s M. Moon-faced actor Peter Lorre plays Hans Beckert, a serial killer who lures children with candy and companionship. “I can’t help myself,” he moans. “I haven’t any control over the evil that’s inside me! The fire! The voices! The torment!”
For a serial killer movie, M is remarkably free of graphic violence or bloodshed. That doesn’t mean it’s not harrowing. A scene in which the gnome-like Beckert lures a young girl with a balloon is spare — there’s virtually no dialogue — but it packs an emotional punch.
Just as important as the killer in the movies are the cops who bring the baddies to justice. In The Calling, Susan Sarandon creates a memorable serial killer hunter. She’s pill-popping Det. Hazel Micallef, a world-weary small town Canadian cop just a drunken whisper away from unemployment. The sleepy little town of Fort Dundas doesn’t offer up much in the way of major cases until a string of grisly murders — slit throats and organ removals — forces Micallef to dust off her detecting skills and track down a killer driven by fanatical religious fervour.
First time director Jason Stone ratchets the bleak atmosphere up to Creep Factor Five in this eerie character-driven mystery. There’s a little bit of Fargo in the mix, with some dark humor — “I just found the guy’s stomach!” — and disquieting imagery, but the real draw is watching the characters navigate through the film’s unsettled but strangely familiar world.
Bonn says movies like Psycho and Summer of Sam allow people to play armchair detective. “We may feel a bit guilty about indulging in them,” he writes, “(but) we simply cannot stop.”
Adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø “The Snowman” is a Scandinavian whodunit with a frosty storyline.
Someone is killing women in Oslo, leaving behind their dismembered bodies and creepy looking snowmen with grimaces made of coffee beans at the crime scenes. All the victims are mothers seemingly “punished” by the snowy sicko for extra martial affairs and terminated pregnancies. To add a macabre purity metaphor to the proceedings, each of their deaths happens during a new snowfall.
Into this grim situation comes alliteratively named detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). “I need a case,” he wheezes at his boss. “I apologize for Oslo’s low-murder rate,” comes the reply.
When Hole is not drinking, chain-smoking or finding new ways to alienate the other members of the Oslo Crime Squad he’s reserving whatever humanity is tucked away inside for his ex Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son.
Teamed with newbie Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) he plods through a sea of red herrings to uncover the identity of Norway’s icy serial killer. “We studied your cases at the Academy,” she says. “You’re up there with the legends.”
We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better.
“The Snowman” ticks off all the cop movie clichés. There’s a detective bedevilled by seeing too much death, a protagonist with a personal stake in the case, a serial murderer with a deeply rooted reason for killing and senior cops too quick to try and close cases.
Fassbender’s Hole is a caricature, a once brilliant detective reduced to a bleary-eyed, brooding drunk. His scenes with Ferguson are underplayed to the point of flat lining the drama. Not that there is much drama.
Director Tomas Alfredson—whose films “Let the Right One In” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” are both four star movies—manages moments of tension but doesn’t sustain them. He continuously breaks up the tension with flashbacks and dour staring contests between the serious faced actors.
Add to that a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, Richard Gere in “Norman,” Emma Watson in the cyber thriller “The Circle” and the animated movie “Spark: A Space Tail.”
To play the title character in “Norman,” a strategist, a consultant who sometimes consults with consultants, Richard Gere dimmed his matinee idol looks with a bad haircut and thick glasses. It’s his best role in years, a character study that gives him the chance to go deep in a movie that isn’t as deep as it thinks it is.
Gere is Norman Oppenheimer, a down-at-the-heels New York City wannabe wheeler-dealer. He’s a connector, a facilitator who brings people together. In conversation he repeats, “I’d be very happy to introduce you,” like a mantra, seven words that could unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Everybody who’s anybody knows who he is but nobody knows anything about him. He’s a cipher who lives on his cell phone, has no office but does have nerve and something to prove. He’s so keen to impress Micha Eshelan (Lior Ashkenazi), up-and-coming Israeli politician he buys him a very expensive gift just minutes after meeting him. “I bought him a pair of shoes,” he says. “The most expensive pair of shoes in all of New York. Best investment I ever made.”
His investment pays off years later when Eshelan becomes the Prime Minister of Israel. Norman’s stock rises considerably but is his relationship with the world leader illegal and corrupt? Is Norman simply a delusional name-dropper or is he the one virtuous man in a den of wolves?
When we first meet Norman he is the living, breathing embodiment of disappointment. A man who rides a razors edge of failure every time he picks up his cell phone. He swallows his pride at every turn, trying to maintain dignity even as he is thrown out of a wealthy man’s home. He’s a goodhearted weasel who lies and cheats in his quest to do the right thing and Gere plays him as a man desperate to matter, to experience the kind of recognition that would come with the right connections.
It feels like he has tasted the good life and, as Eshelan says, “once you have been up, way up, you can’t settle for anything less.” Norman wants more but it’s never exactly sure what that means to him. He’s a fascinating, annoying character and Gere brings him to life.
There’s also interesting work from Ashkenazi, Charlotte Gainsbourg as a crusading lawyer and Steve Buscemi as a rabbi but the film feels cluttered, as though director Joseph Cedar was so fascinated by Norman’s ever spreading web of obligations, he couldn’t stop adding to it.
“Norman” is an in-depth look at a superficial man, a movie that works best when it focuses on Gere and not baroque political intrigue.