Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Frozen Ground (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

In 1983, Sergeant Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) leads an investigation in Anchorage, Alaska to catch a merciless serial killer. The killer targets young women and prostitutes by luring them to his home with money. Here, the killer beats, tortures, and rapes his victims. To fulfill his sadistic blood lust, the killer forces his broken victims into the wilderness for a hunting game with no realistic chances of escape.

Sergeant Halcombe is stuck on a dead end road, until a young Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) changes everything. At the age of seventeen, Cindy is a runaway, who works as a prostitute, but Cindy refuses a polygraph, and Cindy is terrified at the thought of testifying in court. Halcombe reopens closed cases for murders linked to the killer, and Halcombe’s research leads him to one man. Robert (or “Bob”) Hansen (John Cusack) is the prime suspect, but Hansen is a respected and popular member of the community. Hansen is a married man with two children, and he’s the owner/manager of a local bakery, so Halcombe’s going to have a tough time trying to convince his peers of Hansen living a double-life as a cold-blooded killer.

Cindy is stuck in the clutches of her pimp, Clate (50 Cent), and with two weeks left in his tenure as Sergeant, Halcombe races against the clock to put Hansen behind bars. Holcombe promised his wife, Allie (Radha Mitchell) a new life after quitting the force, but after his conscience kicks in, Halcombe refuses to leave the case unsolved.

Hansen will do anything to stop Cindy from talking, and Halcombe runs into some trouble for acquiring the essential search warrant from the District Attorney, Pat Clives (Kurt Fuller). Meanwhile, Cindy descends into a downward spiral of drug abuse, and misery at her new job as a stripper. Will Halcombe catch Hansen before it’s too late?

Nicolas Cage leads the way for this cast with a solid and convincing performance in the leading role. Hudgens deserves a lot of credit for a strong effort as Cindy. Embracing Cindy’s trashy look and persona helped, and Hudgens was able to show some believable welded tears. 50 Cent? Yeah, I can’t say too much about him. His character is the stereotypical street pimp, and that’s about it. And Mitchell doesn’t receive a significant amount of screen time, just a few sporadic appearances here and there, that’s it. Cusack is menacing, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He showcased his versatility with the portrayal of a seemingly innocnet father and husband, and Cusack smoothly switches gears to the callous murderer in the blink of an eye.

Hard to pick out a true “moment” in The Frozen Ground, but if I had to go with one, I would choose the scene where Cindy finally confronts Robert after the rape. We’re in the final moments of the movie, and Halcombe has Hansen backed into a corner, but Cindy is the clincher. Hansen is forced to endure INTENSE pressure during the interrogations……and Cindy walks through the door . Cindy wanted to prove she wasn’t afraid of Hansen anymore, and the sight of Cindy enraged Hansen. During a nasty tirade, Hansen was disgusted at himself for letting Cindy slip through his fingers, and after Hansen’s outburst, Halcombe finally had the (unintentional) testimony he was looking for.

There was a sense of relief during this scene, because The Frozen Ground constantly teased the possibility of Hansen escaping without any problems towards the end. Hansen thought he was brilliant. He was confident he would walk as a free man with no problems, so watching this despicable lowlife crumble under his own diabolical ego provided the highlight for rewarding moments in The Frozen Ground. Hansen’s lawyer has this shocked look on his face, everyone in the room is speechless, and Cindy refuses to break eye contact with Hansen. You can feel the tension, and it’s almost impossible to ignore the disturbed mood in this scene.

I didn’t have a big problem with The Frozen Ground, but I can’t ignore the truth: The Frozen Ground is another generic and formulaic murder mystery/drama film based on true events. You can see every twist and turn coming from a mile away, and they slowly go through the motions step by step until the credits start rolling. At times, The Frozen Ground is a laborious chore to sit through, and the one hour and forty five minutes runtime feels like a LONG three hours, because I can’t count the number of times I checked the clock with an exasperated “Is it over yet?” look.

Still, I won’t go with a negative score. The Frozen Ground is harmless, and more importantly, without a strong and admirable effort from Hudgens, and two solid performances from the veterans (Cage and Cusack), The Frozen Ground could’ve been a lot worse.

Rating: 5/10

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