Back in 1997 John Cusack was busy trying to track down Nicolas Cage in Con Air. Now the roles have been reversed in The Frozen Ground. Based on a true story, Cage is Alaska State Trooper Jack Holcombe, who believes a serial killer is on the loose after several bodies are found in the wilderness. He even believes he knows exactly who it is after one of the victims, Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), escapes and says she was held captive by Robert Hansen (Cusack).
However because she is a drug addict and prostitute, most of law enforcement refuses to believe her. Jack does though, but finds that Cindy isn’t going to trust him easily. He needs her help to bring Hansen to justice, especially as the killer isn’t going to admit anything easily. The murderer also knows that Cindy is a loose end who could be dangerous.
Serial killer movies often seem like a pretty safe bet, and Robert Hansen would seem a good one to make a movie about. He killed at least 17 (probably 21) women in the 1970s and 1980s, and raped dozens of others. Those he murdered were taken out into the wilderness and hunted down like game.
Unfortunately though, The Frozen Ground isn’t all it could be. It’s trapped somewhere between police procedural and killer thriller and seems determined to be as generic an example of both genres as it can be. There are few surprises and it’s not all that gripping either – indeed it doesn’t just seems to be set in the 1980s, but its storytelling style would have fitted in quite well then too.
Cage does a pretty good job, although the usually reliable Cusack appears to be slightly going through the motions and doesn’t really capture a man who presents one face to the world and a very different one in private. Vanessa Hudgens isn’t that good either – or at least there are moments where she’s very effective, mixed in with scenes where she comes across as rather amateurish.
The film says it’s a tribute to the women who were Hansen’s victims and suggests it is telling Paulson’s story, but it’s so beholden to cliché that it seems to revel in its premise as much as condemn it. It’s not a terrible movie and doesn’t actively do a lot that’s wrong, but it’s doesn’t do much that’s particularly right either, or at least anything that goes beyond the very standard.
Overall Verdict: A rather generic serial killer tale that takes an interesting story and tells it in a way that makes it feel like it has absolutely nothing new to offer.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac