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The Frozen Ground

The Frozen Ground

What She said:

She

The Frozen Ground is an “inspired by a true story” thriller starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and Vanessa Hudgens.  It tells the story of serial killer Robert Hansen, who has somehow managed to get away with his crimes for more than a decade.  That is, until Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe comes across the case.  Halcombe is on the brink of a career change, but has deep suspicions about Hansen, and will stop at nothing to make sure the man is fully investigated and charged for his crimes.  For Halcombe, the investigation becomes personal, as he knows that the lives of additional young women are on the line. 

This film is classified as a mystery/ suspense and drama, and the general plot has all the makings of a great movie.  Unfortunately, the execution is shoddy, and this undermines the intent of The Frozen Ground.  I get the sense that this movie was meant to be groundbreaking and thought provoking, as well as deliver edge-of-your-seat thrills.  It attempts to employ a more authentic and gritty feel by using handheld camera work.  But it doesn’t come across as genuine as I think the moviemakers would have hoped.  Instead the movie kind of feels “made-for-TV.”  I’m actually not entirely sure how this happened.  I think it’s because the cinematography lacks dramatic angles and lighting, and so everything feels like it was whipped up by an undergraduate Film Studies major.

The Frozen Ground

The storyline and its flow has a lot of potential; however, things move a little too slowly to make for a memorable suspense/thriller.  It just doesn’t feel like there’s enough at stake, although this does improve as it becomes apparent that key witness and escaped victim, Cindy, is in imminent danger.  It seems somewhat far-fetched, but it’s shown several times that a warrant cannot be issued for Hansen because there is not enough evidence.  So, I guess in the state of Alaska you pretty much need enough to convict before a search warrant can be issued—this seems to undermine the cause.  And the police are hesitant to believe Cindy because she’s a prostitute.  This is something that the film dwells on at length, and I guess they’re trying to make a political statement, but it throws a wrench in the forward momentum of the storyline.  No one wants to watch a thriller that goes nowwhere. 

It isn’t until the final act that this movie really picks up, and I admit that I did like the ending.  I just wish that the first hour and a half had been a little more interesting. 

As far as the acting, I’m sort of “meh” about it.  Nicolas Cage does his best as Halcombe, but his character needed to be more fleshed out.  John Cusack portrays Hansen, and while he’s creepy at times, he also feels a bit miscast in the role.  I can think of a few actors that I would have preferred, but I guess we’re not working with a masterpiece here so I need to lower my expectations a bit.  Vanessa Hudgens sheds her Disney image to play Cindy.  I could tell that she was trying really hard, but I’m not sure she’s quite talented or multidimensional enough to successfully pull off the role.  The fact that I could tell that she was trying hard is probably not a good thing.  That said, I think that all of the characters in this movie are too superficial.  Viewers are provided with the barest minimum of background on each one, and I think that hurts how they come across on-screen.  They feel somewhat empty, and that does not help to make them at all engaging.

Overall, this film has good intentions, and I can tell that some involved gave it their best, but I just did not find The Frozen Ground interesting enough to keep me hooked through its runtime.  There were too many elements that felt low budget and the storyline floundered too much to make for a recommendable movie.

Thumbs mostly down.

The Frozen Ground

What He said:

He

In 1983 17-year old Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) is discovered handcuffed in a motel room in Anchorage, Alaska screaming for help. She is frantic and claiming that she was abducted and raped repeatedly by a man named Robert Hansen (John Cusack). Because she is a prostitute, lied about her age – why I didn’t totally understand – and Hansen’s reputation in the community, the police dismiss her case.

Maybe it unfolded this way, maybe it didn’t. I don’t know anything about the real life case that inspired the movie. But there was something about the way it was presented in the movie that I wasn’t buying; especially when it is later discovered – and discovered rather easily – that Hansen does indeed have a criminal history, documented psychological issues, and a past with prostitutes. I know law enforcement can drop the ball, but there was so much already documented about this guy that I have to wonder if the movie exaggerated some of it for the sake of its plot. It just seemed like too much for anyone not to take seriously.

The Frozen Ground

Well apparently I’m not the only one to feel that way, because one of the characters – a local police officer – in the movie is so outraged by his colleagues’ lack of actions, that he sends a copy of the case to the state police.
Enter Nicolas Cage. Cage plays state trooper Jack Holcombe. Jack is this close to moving and taking another job. Him and his wife think it’s best they get away from the cesspool that apparently is Anchorage, Alaska in the 1980s. It’s taken a tol on both him and his family, so they think it’s best if they move away and get a fresh start. So when Jack is given this case, he’s not too happy. But being the good cop that he is, Jack gives it his all.

Most of the movie has Jack building the case against Hansen, trying to convince Cindy to help out, and somehow failing at both over-and-over again.

Cindy is a baffling person. She goes to the cops for help, but now that somebody is actually focusing on her case, she spends most of her time running away and hiding. She keeps going back to her life as a prostitute. She’s all, “Help me!” one minute and “Leave me alone!” the next. This girl went through a terrible experience, and I understand she was scared, but boy is she portrayed as a moron. The movie seemed to make her too dumb at times just for the sake of keeping the story going.

Despite the fact that Jack has – in my opinion – built a pretty good case against Hansen, the district attorney continually says it’s not enough to press charges. Like I said earlier, it seems like the movie goes to great lengths make sure Hansen isn’t prosecuted just so that movie can continue to go on. I can believe in inept police officers and a tough time proving a case, but it was blatantly obvious Cusack’s character was a killer and that’s not because the movie never hides this from the audience. The guy has been busted on prostitution charges multiple times and many of them said that be beat and/or raped them. He has also been diagnosed to have psychological issues. The whole “upstanding citizen” argument from the local police makes no sense at all. Cage’s character finds out about his past very easily, so I’m not sure where the local police got the whole idea that he’s some pillar of the community doesn’t make one lick of sense.

Nicolas Cage was the only one who gave a performance I thought was worth anything. I don’t think Vanessa Hudgens has the talent to pull this role off and John Cusack was miscast.

The movie was also pretty boring too. No tension or drama; or at least tension or drama that felt real. It was a very weak effort.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was given the He said She said seal of approval on June 8, 2014.

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