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Film Review The Snowman

Michael Fassbender stars in the thriller "The Snowman." 

OK, let’s just start with the main character’s name. Michael Fassbender plays drunken detective Harry Hole.

Nope. I didn’t make that up. And I could not have made up the rest of “The Snowman,” either, not in a million years. An unintentionally hilarious “thriller,” this mess is inscrutable at worst and a waste of time at its best. I know it’s based on a book, which must be much better than the film it inspired.

The setting is contemporary Oslo, where Harry’s ex-wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lives with their teenage son. Harry really wants to find the killer, who stalks his victims, then uses a wire to decapitate them. He arranges the body parts and always leaves a signature snowman at the grisly scenes.

People move in and out of this movie as if they were in a dream, appearing here and then with nothing to add to the story line. It’s a good cast, too, with an almost-unrecognizable Val Kilmer, Toby Jones and even J. K. Simmons on hand.

At least half the time, it’s difficult to determine what’s going on. There is little in the way of coherence to this film, although it does show us several decapitations, so we know what’s going on during those gruesome moments.

There is absolutely no tension, either, so you won’t care when the big reveal arrives. You won’t care about the characters, either, because they’re bland and uninteresting, even when they’re firing weapons, trudging through the snow or arguing with each other. The most interesting thing about Harry is his name.

Fassbender is a marvelous performer, but he’s so laid-back here his character is anything but engaging. At least Simmons gives his character some pizzazz, although the character really doesn’t lend much to the plot.

Director Tomas Alfredson has helmed some terrific movies, including “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Let the Right One In.” This is not one of them.

The night I saw this movie, the audience was sparse. While I was walking to my car, a fellow, accompanied by a woman, came out shaking his head. “Did you see ‘The Snowman?’” I asked him.

“Yes. It was terrible!” he answered.

And so it is.

I happened to be in three different airports last weekend, and I was surprised how hard the book is being pushed by all kinds of booksellers.

If you want to take a chance on good entertainment, buy or borrow the book. Because you certainly won’t find it in this sorry film adaptation. 

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.