ReviewWriter: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Confessions Of A Serial Killer" and “The Hillside Strangler”
If there was one way to get sympathy for a movie with poor plot, shallow characterization, and a screeching script, it is to use the five magic words: "Based on a true story"; a label for the movie to justify all its deficiencies simply on the virtue of being loyal to the truth. But for "The Frozen Ground", not even this cop out disclaimer can hide how poorly made it is because despite its meandering plot and the lack of weight behind some of the main characters, its major weaknesses are located in its technical inability to even frame the story properly before we can experience the aforementioned areas
Based on the true story of a series of ghastly murders committed between the 1970s and 1980s in freezing Alaska, Alaskan trooper Sergeant Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) was assigned to investigate the case when police started uncovering rotting bodies of young women buried in the remote wilderness, just before he was about to leave to the force in search for greener pastures. Without many leads from the current bodies found, Halcombe's intuition slowly sees a pattern emerging in the cases of missing women and the bodies that were found, which led him to open up cold cases that may show a wider connection between their disappearances and their deaths. All circumstantial evidence pointed to Robert Hansen (John Cusack); a soft spoken and upstanding owner of a bakery, who is well respected by friends and relatives alike for his charming demeanor.
Despite his past criminal records, Hansen strongly maintained that he was not involved in the murders, but Halcombe was insistent on gathering enough evidence to prove the man is guilty to stop his killing spree. His key lead is Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), a prostitute who had reported a man fitting the description of Hansen whom she claimed was about to kill her before she managed to escape, but her poor testimony and cooperation was not enough to instigate a full investigation on Hansen before until Halcombe is brought in.
Debut writer and director Scott Walker doesn't go for the thriller mystery route of keeping audiences guessing if Hansen was really guilty, because it gets quickly established that Hansen is the serial murderer with twisted fetishes and a dominating complex that Cusack played fittingly. Instead Walker plays it like a procedural drama with the bulk of the emotion showing Cage being uncharacteristically calm as he tries to convince fellow officers and the local district attorney to arrest the man and search for evidence to put Hansen behind bars. The performance that both men bring against each other is decent. Although Cage's cold and hardened cop willing to go the distance to get to the bottom of his case is a by-the-number performance that can be seen in an episode of "Law And Order", his calm performance is more appreciated than the roles we had to endure from him recently. The momentum picks up by the third act and Cusack's and Cage's chemistry actually produces some the most intense showdowns that barely gave the closure this movie needed.
The most noteworthy outing for this is Vanessa Hudgens, who is once again moving herself away from her glamorous "High School Musical" typecast. Her spiteful yet sympathetic performance as the drug-addled prostitute and sole survivor of the killings is admirable, though at times hitting only single notes because of the script's stubborn adherence to the 'true story' format.
There is clearly a call for sympathy towards the victims as Walker ends the movie with a dedication to them. Still, if sympathy for the victims of these murders is where this movie is going, "The Frozen Ground" does not have much sympathy for its audience. Never mind the forced close-up shots that fails to differentiate between capturing the intensity of the moment and not clearly showing what is happening in front of the camera, the poor pacing and the awkward cuts (partly because of the badly timed cuts by our censors) between connecting shots that makes it difficult to adjust one's chronological bearing and understanding of where and when the scenes are taking place; which is one sure way to make this procedural feel as convoluted than it already needed to be.
As the photos of the real victims start fading in before the credits, there isn't much of a shiver at seeing the faces of actual people who have lost their lives to a psycho, which can't be a good thing. While it certainly feels a bit cruel to be harsh towards a retelling of an incident that should be remembered, it is hard to be kind when it is told without any tact and still holding out for pity compliments.Cinema Online, 27 August 2013