The Frozen Ground (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/07/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

The Frozen Ground features some stunning location work and a trio of strong performances from Cage, Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens, but it's let down by a disjointed and frustratingly unfocussed script, coupled with some laughably sloppy dialogue.

What's it all about?
Directed by Scott Walker (no, not that one) and based on a true story, The Frozen Ground is set in 1983 Anchorage, Alaska and stars Nicolas Cage as married State Trooper Jack Halcombe, who's the time-honoured two weeks away from a transfer when he gets caught up in the case of Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), a 17 year old prostitute who's found beaten and handcuffed in a hotel room and alleges local family man Robert Hansen (John Cusack) raped and tried to kill her. However, when Hansen produces an alibi, the cops all but drop Cindy's case, until Halcombe connects her story to a number of other disappearances, whereupon he sets out to try and prove Hansen is guilty.

The Good
The performances are excellent, with Cage playing it commendably straight for once (he doesn't even have ridiculous hair) and Cusack fully embracing the sweaty serial killer phase of his career after his superlative turn in The Paperboy. However, it's Vanessa Hudgens who really impresses, with an engaging and heartfelt turn as damaged and disillusioned Cindy. Oh, and Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson (who also co-produced) turns up as, um, a pimp, if you like that sort of thing.

In addition, the film is atmospherically shot, with cinematographer Patrick Murguia making striking use of some authentic Alaskan locations, particularly in the sequences where Hansen hunts his prey in remote terrain near the Knik River.

The Bad
With its painstaking investigation of a real-life case, The Frozen Ground would dearly love to be Zodiac, but unfortunately it falls far short of that goal. For one thing, the script is extremely uneven, with large chunks obviously cut out (Radha Mitchell is particularly poorly served as Halcombe's wife) and a number of clumsy scene transitions; for example, the story occasionally moves forwards what seems like several months, without so much as an onscreen caption.

On top of that, the story takes some ridiculous turns (what kind of covering-his-tracks serial killer hires a hitman?) and leaves certain areas (such as Cindy's outright dismissal, given the amount of evidence) frustratingly unexplained, while the poorly directed finale feels rushed and false, all of which is compounded by some unintentionally laughable dialogue and a descent into risible cliché.

Worth seeing?
In short, The Frozen Ground is well acted and has some effective moments, but the unfocussed script and occasionally laughable dialogue mean that it's ultimately a frustrating experience.

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 22/07/2018 08:05

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