You know a film is going to be terrible when the director explains what went wrong before the film is even released.
A few days before “The Snowman” premiered, director Tomas Alfredson, whose credits include “Let the Right One In” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” admitted in an interview with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that 10 to 15 percent of the story wasn’t filmed due to limited shooting time.
Universal and Working Title, the film’s production partners, were likely hoping for another Scandinavian noir hit film, similar to David Fincher’s hit “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Unfortunately, “The Snowman” turns into a crime yarn that leaves audiences scratching their heads at the convoluted plot.
Adapted from Jo Nesbø’s bestselling series about detective Harry Hole (yes, the character’s name is actually Harry Hole), “The Snowman” may be the worst film of the year.
The film centers around Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), the typical troubled, genius detective with a few vices. When not drinking himself into a stupor, Hole occasionally shows up for work at the Oslo police station where he sulks around with a pack of cigarettes.
One day, Hole receives a cryptic letter written in block letters and signed with an image of a snowman that looks as if a child drew it.
Soon after receiving the letter, a young mother is reported missing. Hole teams up with detective Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) to solve her disappearance. Hole seems convinced that the husband is to blame, but Bratt believes the disappearance is related to a series of similar cases that involve young mothers disappearing.
Hole and Bratt expand their investigation and quickly realize that a serial killer is on the loose. Of course, the serial killer has a unique calling card: Snowmen built outside each victim’s home.
While trying to unravel the frosty mystery, Hole’s personal life is falling apart. Hole has a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and her teenage son, Oleg (Michael Yates). Rakel still cares for Hole and Oleg views him as a quasi-father figure, but Hole begins to neglect them as he becomes enwrapped in the case.
The serial killer starts to get personal, and it’s left to Hole and Bratt to piece together cold cases with the new ones to solve the mystery.
The problematic storytelling, unlikeable protagonist and idiosyncratic cameos make “The Snowman” painful to watch. For example, the flashback scenes of Val Kilmer (who is almost unrecognizable from his “Top Gun” days) playing a bloated, drunk detective are just bizarre. Kilmer barely speaks, and his lines have been poorly dubbed over by another actor that doesn’t remotely sound like him.
Audiences might have trouble fathoming how “The Snowman” turned into such a mess given the star power of the cast and the talented people who worked on the film, including executive producer Martin Scorsese and Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
The only redeeming parts of the film are the beautiful scenery shots of Norway and the infamous “MISTER POLICE” letter being used to create hilarious memes.
I truly hope that Tomas Alfredson will recover from “The Snowman,” but it might take awhile to rally back from a film with an 8 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Fans of Michael Fassbender may enjoy this snowy romp, but otherwise, “The Snowman” melts faster than Frosty come spring thaw.