Geek Review: The Snowman

On paper, this should be a good movie.  Featuring Michael Fassbender in the lead role, it adapts the crime novel by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, directed by Tomas Alfredson (who directed the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In and the fantastic English language espionage movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and had Martin Scorsese as an executive producer.  Plus, that trailer looked pretty sharp.

So how was it?

Disappointing.  Very disappointing.

Look, when a movie’s director is on-record for saying they saved what they could in the editing room, then you know you’ve got problems.  That’s a bit of a shame since this was a bestselling book.  My parents are fans of the series, though my dad has always said the only problem he has is, due to a lack of familiarity with Norwegian names, he never knew if he was reading about men, women, or streets half the time.

At any rate, Fassbender plays Harry Hole (pronounced, I am told, “HO-EL” in Norwegian, but anglicized for the movie), an alcoholic homicide detective working for the Oslo police department.  He drinks heavily, but due to Oslo’s low crime rate, he doesn’t work much.  Then a woman disappears from her home, looking like a missing person’s case, except Harry’s new co-worker that he more or less tags along with (Rebecca Ferguson) thinks there’s more to it, and Harry gradually does too.  It seems there’s a serial killer out there hunting women who have children but not necessarily with their husbands.  The killer’s trademark is to leave a snowman behind.

Here’s the thing:  everyone in this movie doesn’t seem to be doing anything with much urgency.  Fassbender is a great actor, but here he’s underplaying everything.  Harry says he’s got insomnia, but he sure does seem to be half-asleep for the entire movie.  The one exception to this is Val Kilmer as another alcoholic detective seen in various flashbacks, but he’s chewing scenery in a way that suggests he’s in a completely different, equally bad movie.  Plus, for some reason I thought all his lines were badly dubbed.  Now, that sort of thing can be improved with a good script or inspired direction, but there isn’t much of that either.  This is a movie that bounces around to different locations with little explanation, and likewise drops entire subplots without explanation, like what J.K. Simmons’ character was doing for most of his limited screen time.  And finally, I always tend to groan internally when a dues ex machina is employed at any point in a narrative, and this movie has one.

This movie is just a mess, and given all the talent involved, it really shouldn’t have been.  I rarely go below a “6” since that’s an failure as far as I am concerned, but in this case, I most certainly will.  4 out of 10 moments where you don’t know exactly who lost a finger.


Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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