The Snowman is a frozen wasteland in more ways than one

A great director, a solid cast and a best-selling novel... how did this serial killer thriller go so wrong?

THE SNOWMAN (Tomas Alfredson). 119 minutes. See listing. Opens Friday (October 20). Rating: N

The Snowman is terrible, but there’s no pleasure to be had in hating it this is the sort of bad movie that makes you feel sorry for everyone involved.

The first of Jo Nesbø’s bestselling Harry Hole thrillers to be brought to the screen, it’s also almost certainly the last, given how little regard the filmmakers and the studio seem to have for the material.

Set in Norway but performed entirely in English – with the mostly British and American cast affecting various cod-European accents in an attempt to create an exotic atmosphere, a strategy that works about as well as it did in David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Tomas Alfredson’s plodding thriller casts Michael Fassbender as Nesbø’s dissolute, alcoholic investigator.

And for what it’s worth, Fassbender’s a good pick, playing Hole as a messy, exhausted version of the man he used to be, just too tired to follow departmental protocols when he sees them as obstacles.

Hole’s stubbornness is what gets him to tag along with new colleague Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) as her missing-persons investigation that quickly turns into a hunt for a serial killer – although we know more about that than they do, since we get to hang out with the murderer as the victims are selected and stalked.

The script, written by Peter Straughan (who worked on Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Hossein Amini (Our Kind Of Traitor) and Søren Sveistrup (The Killing), is a jumble of dead leads, red herrings and parallel storytelling that’s only intermittently coherent, which I suspect is the result of multiple rewrites that alter several key elements from the book for no reason I could determine.

It’s genuinely shocking that Alfredson, who made such graceful pleasures out of the convoluted narratives of both Let The Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, can’t find a handle on this film at all, especially with a game cast that includes Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloë Sevigny, J.K. Simmons, James D’Arcy and an inexplicably overdubbed Val Kilmer.

Honestly, Kilmer’s performance is so heavily and clumsily edited that I briefly wondered whether it was some weird experiment in motion-capture gone horribly wrong … but that would require a lot of forethought and preparation, and nothing else about The Snowman supports that idea.

Really, this kind of disaster is nobody’s fault it’s just what happens when a movie is pushed into theatres in an unfinished state. It’s underdeveloped, missing vital connective tissue, not quite strong enough to live on its own.

Sorry, Harry.

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