Susan Granger’s review of “The Snowman” (Universal Pictures)
When the director of a bizarre murder mystery admits that something went wrong, it’s worth noting. Here’s what Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation:
“We didn’t get the whole story, and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing, so you don’t see the whole picture.”
Alfredson added that the greenlight to shoot came “very abruptly,” and about 10-15% of the screenplay wasn’t even filmed. Which makes for a lot of plot holes.
Based on Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo’s pulpy 2007 thriller, the formulaic script is credited to three screenwriters – Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini and Soren Sveistrup – none of whom have an ear for dialogue or conveying the disorienting time-frame changes.
The intrigue revolves around Norway’s most famous detective, chain-smoking, vodka-swilling Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), whose chaotic private life involves an art dealer ex, Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her sulky teenage son, Oleg (Michael Yates), and new partner, Matthias (Jonas Karlsson).
Joined by the homicide department’s rookie, Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), Hole is on the trail of a serial killer who leaves a snowman figure outside the houses of his chosen victims, all of whom recently terminated pregnancies. Depicted by cinematographer Dion Beebe, the grisly dismemberments are gruesome.
In the meantime, Katrine’s scrutinizing a smarmy industrialist, Arve Stop (J.K. Simmons) who is overseeing Oslo’s bid for the Winter Games; he enjoys taking photos of scared young women on his mobile phone. There’s also creepy doctor Idar Vetleson (David Dencik).
Last but not least, another dissolute, alcoholic detective, Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), is investigating the same killer’s crimes in the city of Bergen nine years earlier. (Kilmer’s dialogue was dubbed by another actor because Kilmer is recovering from cancer and could not talk intelligibly.)
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Snowman” is a twisted, turgid 2 – with a conclusion that makes no sense whatever, yet sets up for a sequel.