“Frozen Ground”

Susan Granger’s review of “Frozen Ground” (Lionsgate)


Does Nicolas Cage even read the script before he agrees to do a movie? He’s an astute actor but, more and more, it seems as if cashing the paycheck is more important to him than enhancing his career.  What else could explain “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Trespass” and “Season of the Witch,” among others, on his recent resume?  Now there’s this grim police procedural, based on a gruesome true crime case.

From 1971 to 1983, serial killer Robert Hansen raped, mutilated and murdered at least 21 young women in Alaska.  He methodically mapped where he’d buried his helpless victims after abducting them and loading them onto
his small plane, taking them to his rural cabin before hunting them down like
deer and elk.  Two weeks before resigning from his post in Anchorage, State Trooper Sgt. Jack Halcombe (Cage) was dispatched to bring the culprit to justice. His conduit turned out to be an underage, drug-addicted stripper/prostitute Cindy Paulsen (Vanessa Hudgens), who had been tortured and raped but managed to escape, despite being handcuffed. Problem is: no one else believes her when she identifies Hansen (John Cusack), the bespectacled, mild-mannered bakery shop owner, as her assailant.

Creating the fictional character of Jack Halcombe as an amalgamation of several real-life law officers, novice New Zealand writer/director Scott Walker delineates an intense, uptight, determined protagonist whom we already know will succeed in his grisly quest. For that reason, there’s little or no sense of dread or tension in this derivative, cliché-filled, wannabe thriller.

Film buffs may recall that Nic Cage and John Cusack co-starred previously in the far-better “Con Air,” while Vanessa Hudgens suddenly gets serious after “High School Musical” and “Spring Breakers.” Radha Mitchell and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson appear briefly as Halcombe’s unhappy wife and Cindy’s backstabbing pimp, respectively.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Frozen Ground” is a choppy, chilling 5, destined for a quick burial in the icy tundra.