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The Frozen Ground
DIRECTOR: Scott Walker
CAST: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Kevin Dunn, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Radha Mitchell, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LVNSD
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
Nicolas Cage redeems himself somewhat in this cop vs serial killer drama, which is a whole two stars better than many of the films he has been churning out lately.
Bleakly atmospheric, the film sees him turn in a focused, non-crazy Nic Cage performance as an Alaskan State Trooper who turns out to be a decent person.
Sergeant Jack Halcombe (Cage) enlists the help of a woman who escaped from the serial killer. He doggedly tracks down leads and does his paperwork, all the while trying to balance his home life with an emotionally demanding job.
Vanessa Hudgens tosses her High School Musical goody two shoes persona firmly to the kerb with her portrayal of streetkid turned prostitute, Cindy Paulsen.
The prostitute with the heart of gold and a history of abuse is a standard film trope, but Hudgens commits to her performance.
Cusack plays creepy Robert Hansen, also a family man but one who doesn’t come across as normal when pitted against Cage’s Halcombe. As a serial killer Hansen plays it very carefully until Paulsen escapes his clutches.
Once Halcombe gets Hansen in a room though, that is when we see what the film could have been.
Up until this point it is the stock standard police procedural drama we see play out an hour at a time every day on TV. But, putting the two very capable actors (who both excel at containing the crazy when directed properly) in the same room reminds you there has not been much by way of character development in the film, which could have provided a focus.
Director Scott Walker paints a desolate picture of Alaska, with eerily lit night-time scenes, hand-held camerawork and swirling snow making for a claustrophic setting when contrasted with Hansen’s occasional flights, soaring majestically into the Alaskan wilds.
The one chilling thing the film, which is based on true events, does get right is the reminder that Hansen was real – stay and watch the end-credits.
We get so used to stories about FBI profilers and CSI analysts and serial killers who are made out to be interesting people, we forget that bad things happen in real life.
Human beings are killed, and we turn the pain of their families into stories for our entertainment.
If you liked Redemption (Hummingbird) or The Crimson Rivers (Les rivières pourpres) you will like this.