Criminal Minds – ★★
In this day and age us murder junkies are getting more than our fill from the small screen as we’re bombarded with grim, grey scenes in shows like “Top of the Lake” and “The Killing” (both Danish and US versions) in masterfully made shows that pull the viewer in and slowly reveal things about the victim(s), investigators and killers. Perhaps looking to capitalise on this current trend is Scott Walker’s The Frozen Ground which takes a strong top-line cast to tell the story of the 1980s hunt for the Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen.
Playing the man with the habit of kidnapping and killing prostitutes is John Cusack, with Nicolas Cage heading up the investigation as Sergeant Jack Halcombe. He’s the one who takes the claims of a prostitute named Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens) seriously and starts to put two and two together, digging through police archives and using relatively new criminal profiling systems to eventually find their man. Cindy’s pimp is played by the rapper 50 Cent who i) wears some awesome fake dreadlocks and ii) produced the film.
Simply put the film isn’t very good as we spend way too long just getting from point A to point B without any sense of suspense or surprise. We learn as much as we need to know about Cusack and Cage’s characters very early on and then it’s just a turgid process to eventually get around to arresting him. The lack of a whodunnit separates it from the aforementioned TV shows and puts it in league with suspense-free true crime specials. In recent films The Iceman or Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, we spent time getting to know the wrongdoer and felt like we could understand some of their decision-making processes, but here Cusack is just a kinda weird guy who hates his wife and likes to kill prostitutes.
We’ve wondered for a while whether Nicolas Cage is just in a “sure I’ll take it!” contractual obligation phase of his career as it seems he’ll star in anything once you pay up with Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans the only bright light on his CV from the last 5 years. But at least he’s having some fun with his roles, John Cusack appears bored with the world of acting with 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine the last time I can remember seeing him in something worthwhile. Incidentally it’s the first time both men have starred opposite each other since 1997’s Con Air, a time when they were both blessed with much better hair.
Taking into account their two sleep-walking performances, a dull script and 50 Cent’s inability to act and you’re left with a one star film. However Hudgens is a lovely screen presence as always, 50 Cent’s hair moves brilliantly and the real star of the show slowly reveals itself and elevates the film to become just about passable – ALASKA. The film was shot on location during a cruel winter there and it looks incredible with major props due to cinematographer Patrick Murguia for using the snow and the scenery to create some semblance of atmosphere.
Released in Ireland on July 19th, nationwide.
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