Internationally set-crime thrillers can be great (see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, or The Secret in Their Eyes for elegant proof), but this one is a mess of a movie. Set in Norway, it is beautifully photographed and handsomely acted, but the story is tangled and clumsy and unconvincing.
Tomas Alfredson’s film, based on a novel by Jo Nesbo, tells three or four stories which ultimately intertwine as a serial killer kills and dismembers several women in cold Norway. Cold is a key word; none of the characters are warm, or easy to warm up to, especially investigator Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). Only an active case can pull Harry from his drunken stupor and keep him sober, even as his job and office are being assigned to young Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson). Mysterious characters come and go, both in present and in flashbacks, with the basis of the story seeming to involve a boy orphaned when his mother drowns herself. And then there’s the eponymous Snowman symbol, which accompanies (or forewarns of) the crime scenes but is never noted as having anything to do with the story by the cops investigating the killings.
Red herrings are one thing, but this movie just keeps introducing characters just for confusion and deflection. It is gratuitously violent at times, although it must be said that the lurid killings are compellingly staged. The worst parts are the ridiculous flashbacks of the first investigator, Rafto (Val Kilmer), in which the actor looks terrible and sounds dubbed. Rafto’s scenes are completely undeveloped, while the film’s editing removes any suspense that might have wandered onto the set and the ultimate fate of the killer is simply unbelievable and stupid.
Evidently Jo Nesbo’s “Harry Hole” series is quite popular with readers, but there were people in the audience who laughed uproariously every time someone said his name in the theater where I saw it. Adults, not adolescents. Alas, the main takeaway I will remember from this grisly, muddled, ugly movie is never to name a character anything that sounds like “hairy hole,” for that is what the less discerning viewers will see and hear. ☆ ☆. 1 November 2017.