Nicolas Cage sleepwalks through another macho, tediously formulaic b-movie.
The grisly true life story of how serial killer Robert Hansen hunted down and murdered 21 young women in 1980s Anchorage is a morbidly fascinating saga, one that shocked an entire community and devastated families across the state. Sadly, the macabre event is given the shortest possible shrift in a depressing, workmanlike effort from debut director Scott Walker. Toss in a bored cast, functional screenplay and a torrent of crime thriller cliches, and it all adds up to one rather sodden procedural.
When Alaskan police find teenage prostitute Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens, who gloriously spends half the film smoking like a chimney) trapped inside a two-bit motel room, no one quite believes her claims about escaping the clutches of local psycho Hansen (John Cusack). No one, that is, except State Trooper and all round good egg Sergeant Jack Halcombe (Nicholas Cage) who takes Cindy under his wing and vows to capture the aforementioned maniac. Believing her captor is responsible for a spate of disappearances over the years, Halcombe forms an unlikely but dramatically convenient alliance in order to bring the killer to justice.
Shot like an episode of The X-Files with a hint of Twin Peaks gothic, The Frozen Ground is supreme trash masquerading as TV movie-of-the-week bunkum. A handful of impressive Alaskan vistas aside (with scenery like this, you just have to point and click) the film feels a little bit Insomnia Lite – all icy surface, but no feeling. And you know you're in trouble when Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson shows up as, of course, a big pimpin' huckster called Clate Johnson. Typecasting much?
What a shame for howlin' Nicolas Cage and his compadre John Cusack. Hooking up for the first time since sinister prison escape romp Con Air, the freaky duo probably deserve better. Cage holds it together in a frankly boring role. He's relatively subdued here, toning down his usual jive. Having said that, he does get to say the line, "I'm getting this shit hole shut down," so that's something. To be honest, the fact that the film is hitting cinemas at all and not going direct-to-DVD is a step in right direction following a cavalcade of low-rent duds.
What Cusack sees in such claptrap is another matter. There was a time when you'd think the High Fidelity actor was above this particular brand of pulp. Not any more. He seems to be making up for the low-brow anomaly of Hot Tub Time Machine by dabbling in darker, scuzzier places these days (cf The Raven, The Paperboy). All very well, but this isn't a particularly memorable performance, regardless of the righteous bluster he brings to the fore during the film's bland and anticlimactic finale.
To be fair to Cusack, this isn't an especially memorable thriller. It's the kind of film that pins its most obvious clues to a police station wall, that casts Kurt Fuller as a dogsbody DA who won't sign a warrant at a crucial plot point, and allows its characters to maintain normal levels of conversation in the hellishly loud surroundings of a dank basement nightclub. Basically, stone cold junk, executed with minimum flair and imagination. The Frozen Ground? More like a slippery slope to the bargain bin.
Weirdo cast, unknown director and a B-movie take on a real life tragedy.
Generic and dull, they should have put this one on ice.
Dead and buried.