'The Snowman': Boy did it blow, man

The Snowman registers both as a bad thriller and a kind of anti-tourism ad that makes you never want to go to Oslo.

That’s nothing against Norwegians — you’ll note that there aren’t any in the movie. It’s one of those blandified international productions full of people who are British, vaguely British, or stranded Americans who can’t make up their minds about how British they want to be. J.K. Simmons goes for Anglo-Oslo mash-up, Chloë Sevigny is full-on fake British. The ingenious solution of Val Kilmer is to play a mumbling drunk, so nobody knows what he’s saying or where he’s from, or even what he’s doing in the movie.

Anyway, the Oslo of The Snowman is frigidly cold, sunless, snowy, full of “grumpy” people, murdered women and incompetent detectives.

The city’s purportedly legendary homicide investigator, improbably named Harry Hole and played by Michael Fassbender, would have a hard time displacing Barney Fife at the Mayberry PD. Hole is investigating a wave of abducted women with a colleague (Rebecca Ferguson). The culprit sends him a taunting letter in the mail, which he mysteriously ignores. Hole persists in diagnosing the disappearances as the fallout from domestic disputes until he finally is confronted with the headless torso of one unfortunate victim.

Briefing his boss, Hole says, incredibly, “So, far it’s just disappearances.”

If by that, he means he a found body, but the head had disappeared, then yes, that’s an accurate statement.

I would blame this gaffe on a botched edit, except that the editor is Thelma Schoonmaker, one of the all-time greats (although, ominously, the running time was not determined until just days ago). Incompetent director? No, it’s Tomas Alfredson, who made Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Snowman is reminder that movies are hard to make, highly collaborative, often chaotic, and hundreds of things can go wrong. Here, everything did.

MOVIES

The Snowman

  • Directed by Tomas Alredson. With Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny and Toby Jones. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
  • Parents guide: R (grisly images, violence)
  • Running time: 1 hour, 59 mins.
  • Playing at: Area theaters