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.