Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Frozen Ground (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes reviews this intense cop vs serial killer true crime story

The Frozen Ground (2013) tells the true story of Robert Hansen, Alaska's most famous serial killer. One could immediately dismiss this film as another money grab by Nicolas Cage, but to do that you would miss a rather interesting character study of a serial killer, the determined cop tracking him and the serial killer's victim who fortunately escaped. 

As stated, The Frozen Ground is a true story and John Cusack plays Hansen with a reserved calculating coolness Hansen became known for. Cage plays Jack Halcombe, an actual fictional character based on Glenn Flothe, the real cop who finally caught Hansen after more than a decade. Flothe was a dogged police officer who tracked Hansen for 13 years (Hansen's intelligence and bureaucratic red tape were the primary reasons for the difficult arrest). Both Hansen and Flothe were meticulous and both creatures of habits, but Hansen rather was well liked in the community. 

No one ever suspected Hansen was a savage brutal killer of prostitutes.An owner of a local bakery, Hansen spent most of his days working but at night and on the weekends he would kidnap, torture and then kill young women - mostly unsuspecting prostitutes - around 21 of them. As an accomplished pilot, as well, he would then transport the bodies to a remote cabin in the Alaskan wilderness and bury them out in the middle of nowhere. Before you know there is ten feet of snow and the frozen ground would seal up the victim's identity and any evidence linking Hansen to the killings. 

In the movie, one of his victims, however, Cindy Paulson manages to escape, but despite Jack's noblest intentions to make her a part of his own family, she insists on fleeing back to the Alaskan streets. When Hansen finds out she is still alive, it is a race for Jack to find her before Hansen does. 

The Frozen Ground plays like a movie of the week, but writer and director Scott Walker (in his first feature film debut) wisely keeps the action crisp, the dialogue straight forward and everything on a small scale. In doing so the film feels very real. 

When Cusack is on screen as Hansen, he delivers a stellar take as the cold killer so absorbing that you will never look at Cusack the same ever again. Cage is quite effective too as the fictional Jack Halcombe and it is good to see him stretch his acting legs, so to speak, after watching him collect a check for some unbelievably horrible crap, lately. 

Vanessa Hudgens really surprises in an outstanding performance as Cindy Paulson, the desperate prostitute who seems to like what she is doing. There is a scene when she even tells Jack that she wants to go back on the streets regardless of the consequences but later, when she realizes that Hansen is gunning for her, she tries to run. Enter 50 Cent as her pimp who is also behind her and now you have some real tension that soon culminates in a thrilling finale, enhanced by Lorne Balfe's engrossing orchestral score that ramps up the ticking of the investigative clock.

The Frozen Ground has a few cliches though. The lovely Radha Mitchell is wasted as Holcombe's always suffering wife (of a police officer). They have the usual arguments about his work and his love for his work more than his family. Mitchell is too fine of an actress to be used in this kind of whiny role. Also, what would a cop movie be without the always bitching Chief Of Police at loggerheads with Halcombe. Besides, there is not much time spent on why Hansen did all those killings! Still, The Frozen Ground is a solid and well made police thriller which despite some cliches, is still worth watching. The Frozen Ground- *** out of 4


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