2013 is the year that gave us a new royal idiot, a new stupid pope and a new boring thriller starring Batshit Man himself, Nicolas Cage.
The Frozen Ground is the true story of serial killer Robert Hansen (John Cusack) and the Alaskan cop on his tail (Nicolas Cage). With any Nicolas Cage film, one expects something completely baffling, occasionally good, usually terrible. This is none of those things, this is just dull, which is the worst thing a Nicolas Cage film can possibly be. He and Cusack seem to be trying to win a bet over who can look the most bored, leaving us to play a game of Spot The Clichés in order to remain interested.
There’s the cop clichés, namely his troubled past, whisky drinking and his constant repeating that this is his final case before retirement. Then there are the serial killer clichés, including his stuffed animals, creepy glasses and quirky taste in music. That last one used to be quite cool, in films like Reservoir Dogs and American Psycho, but now that every serial killer has to listen to pop music while murdering someone, it’s lost its edge.
The film continues to underwhelm with some bad casting choices. Vanessa Hudgens is completely out of her depth as a tart-with-a-heart who escapes from Hansen, just about the least convincing prostitute since Sergeant Yates from South Park. Her pimp is played by 50 Cent, who still can’t act but is nonetheless there because his production company Cheetah Vision is behind the project. He wears a stupid long-haired wig, which as producer he must have chosen himself.
These characters’ aspects of the movie verge on exploitative, bringing the story into the world of strip clubs and prostitution, with a strange emphasis on nudity and drug use. Obviously I have nothing against either of those things, in fact I actively encourage them. But there’s a time and a place for exploitation cinema, and this true story perhaps isn’t it. If they’d wanted to make an all out exploitationer then that would have been fine, and by fine I mean way better. But given that this is a real life case about real people, these elements feel somewhat inappropriate. Particularly when the film ends, which it does stupidly, and a closing caption reads “This film is dedicated to all the victims”, followed by photos of the actual victims. This just reminds us that the victims of these horrific crimes were real people, and the previous 105 minutes feel all the more insensitive.
It’s not all bad. There are some tense police procedural sequences, a nice performance from Dean “Hank from Breaking Bad” Norris and a good bit where Vanessa Hudgens stares at a moose. But now that television crime dramas are so interesting and dynamic, this kind of middle-of-the-road thriller isn’t really good enough, no matter how much Nicolas Cage shouts. Compared with all of BBC Four’s chilly Nordic noir, The Frozen Ground ends up about as chilling as a heatwave.