The Snowman (2017) Review: Horribly, Hilariously, and Hopelessly Misconceived

The Snowman (2017) Review: Horribly, Hilariously, and Hopelessly Misconceived

There’s no point in sugar coating it, The Snowman is an absolute disaster of a movie. It’s a tonally confused and at times downright incompetent mess. The sad thing is that so many talented filmmakers were involved in this disaster. People who should know better and in the case of director Tomas Alfredson—Let The Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy—one person who has already essentially apologized for the disaster. This lone silver lining is that the film is so ludicrously misconceived and out of control that it is still pretty damn entertaining. Just not necessarily in the ways that the filmmaker intended.

*Please note: this article contains spoilers*

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Genevieve O’Reilly in The Snowman (2017) – image via Universal Pictures

So, this is one of those great detective vs. sick serial killer tales. In this case the detective is Harry Hole—real name—and burned out middle-aged alcoholic played by Michael Fassbender who doesn’t embody any of those adjectives. The serial killer likes to leave snowmen behind in his crime scenes, either looking at the corpse or incorporated into the crime—like placing a severed head on a snowman. This is because when he was a child he watched his mother commit suicide slowly after building a snowman. So frowny face snowmen are key to the killer’s crimes, in fact he even sends the detective in charge of the case a letter with a snowman sketch to kick off the investigation. Once again, this is the actual plot. It has not been exaggerated. Also featured are a brilliant detective protégée portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson, a sleazy businessman played by JK Simmons, a spurned ex played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a second unrelated alcoholic detective played by Val Kilmer. So many talented actors, so few scenes actually worthy of their talent.

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Rebecca Ferguson (right) and J.K. Simmons (left) in The Snowman (2017) – image via Universal Pictures

There are a couple of high points in the film. Specifically, the Norwegian setting is filled with foreboding snowscapes that make for fantastic establishing shots at atmosphere. That’s about it in terms of what went right. In terms of what went wrong? How about everything else. The plot is all over the place with huge gaping holes that don’t make sense. Logic is out the window. The police use a strange and bulky crime-fighting tablet for reasons never fully explained—nor is it even necessary. The killers use cartoonishly complex implements of death for their victims. The actors are all wasted, often having so little to do with the focus of the story—I’m looking at you JK Simmons and Toby Jones—that it doesn’t make sense why they are even there. Val Kilmer’s entire performance has been so poorly redubbed that Spaghetti Western sound crews would be embarrassed. There’s very little that works. Most of it went horribly wrong and embarrassingly so.

The Snowman (2017) Review: Horribly, Hilariously, and Hopelessly Misconceived
Val Kilmer in The Snowman (2017) – image via Universal Pictures

Fortunately, The Snowman fails so hard and so often that it becomes rather entertaining. You may not quite understand what’s happening in the story or why, but you’ll always be excited to see how it’ll get worse and more convoluted. Scenes like Chloe Sevigny’s twin showing up just in time for her identical sister to be murdered get big laughs from audiences. The snowman murder set pieces never cease to be enjoyably goofy. The entire Val Kilmer section is so insane that it’s sure to be isolated into YouTube clips and studied by bad movie lovers for months. This big budget adaptation of a best selling thriller might not exactly please those excited to see a beloved airport paperback brought to life, but it will make those will a sweet tooth for irony giggle with delight. That’s something.

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Jonas Karlsson and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017) – image via Universal Pictures

It is a shame that this movie turned out so poorly though. It’s been six longs years since Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the filmmaker seemed so promising at the time that there was a certain level of anticipation for his follow up. Obviously he spent years lining up a project and big names were excited to sign onto his latest creation. Then this mess happens. Afredson claims that he didn’t have enough time to shoot everything he needed explaining the gaps and awkward editing by virtue of the fact that post production was essentially a salvage job. That’s not an excuse. He still made a bad movie despite having the most filmmaking resources at his disposal in his entire career. However, it at least suggests that the Let The Right One In director will be able to bounce back from this. After all, compared to The Snowman absolutely anything that he does next will feel like a return to form. Even if his next movie is bad it’s unlikely to be a disaster on this scale.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Atomic Blonde (Movie) Review – Boom, Bang, Boom

Atomic Blonde (Movie) Review - Boom, Bang, Boom

Action movies tend to be best defined by their boom boom, bang bang action sequences—and if you’ve got a couple great ones, that’ll make up for almost everything else. Atomic Blonde falls into this category. As a work of storytelling, the movie is a confused and dull mess. As a feat of action filmmaking, it’s one of the highlights of this summer’s blockbuster season. Enjoyment of the film will depend entirely on how much you enjoy the set pieces. They are indeed glorious.

Too bad everything else is such a slog.

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Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde (images via Universal)

The film is set in 80’s Berlin (hence all the neon and dance music) right as the wall is about to fall (hence all the spies and paranoia). Charlize Theron plays an MI6 superspy assigned to clean up a mess involving a stolen list of the identities of undercover agents (aka the McGuffin in the first Mission: Impossible movie). Once there she’s partnered up with James McAvoy, a wildcard party man upset with his low station in the spy game (so he couldn’t possibly be aligned with the villains, right?). She’s attacked by generic bad guys immediately after arriving and fights more of them every 20 minutes or so thereafter. Along the way she meets a sexy/steamy French spy (Sofia Boutella) to engage in sexy/steaminess as well as a number of recognizable character actors making secretive pouty faces. She’s also telling the story to her superiors—played by John Goodman and Toby Jones— in flashbacks. Confused yet? You probably should be. This game of misdirects and double-crossings doesn’t add up to much.

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Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde (images via Universal)

It’s easy to see what director David Leitch (co-director of John Wick) was going for with Atomic Blonde. He wanted to fuse the chilly paranoia of old timey cold war spy thrillers with the goofball glitz of 80’s action flicks. With a story strong enough to allow the spy chills to stand on on their own, that might have worked. Sadly, that’s just not how Atomic Blonde came together. This movie is downright dull when no one is getting kicked in the face. There’s little tension, the plot feels meaningless, and for the most part the characters are too dull to care about regardless of their suspenseful situations. Aside from James McAvoy having a ball as another goofball lunatic, everyone on screen just scowls in an attempt to suggest depth. Even Charlize Theron, despite all her impressive ass-kickery, feels like a blank slate standing around frames looking sad while discussing a convoluted plot no one cares about. It’s really a shame, because the spectacle is fantastic.

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Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde (images via Universal)

Leitch was a career stunt man before getting into directing, so the guy knows how to stage impactful action sequences like few others. All of the fights, shootouts, and car chases in Atomic Blonde are absolutely stunning. You can feel every punch and it’s all choreographed with the precision of ballet. Since Theron is wearing a bad blonde wig, she can easily be subbed out for a stunt-woman through hidden edits to make for some remarkable rounds of punchy-punchy. In particular, the climax is made to feel like a single sustained take that rips through a derelict building and then spills into a car chase on the streets. It is without a doubt one of the most technically and physically impressive action sequences to come along all summer. Yet, it doesn’t make the impact that it should because it’s so hard to care about the characters and scenario when it arrives. The film is sumptuous style with little substance, from the glorious punchouts to the neon glow and iconic dance beats of the 80’s setting. Atomic Blonde is brilliantly conceived as an action movie, but since everything between the set pieces is so boring and dreary, it’s not a particularly good movie.


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John Goodman in Atomic Blonde (images via Universal)

Still, that action is damn good. With a certain deadpan sense of humour acknowledging the script’s weaknesses (you know, like John Wick), this could have been one of the best genre movies of the summer and possibly even kicked off a franchise. Instead, it’s a decent blockbuster with standout action scenes. However, that’s enough for action fans to get their jollies. After all, there are numerous beloved action flicks with completely disposable plots that became classics due to their iconic set pieces. It’s unlikely Atomic Blonde will become one of those, but there are a few fights and shoot outs that demand to be seen by any fan of the genre. Whether you do that theatrically and suffer through the nonsense for the best presentation or simply wait for the good stuff to get divided into YouTube clips is your choice. But don’t miss the highlights if you love when movies make stuff go bang and boom.


The Girl On The Train (Movie) Review

The Girl On The Train (Movie) Review

The Girl On The Train has been made and marketed to try to trick audiences into thinking that it’s Gone Girl. Fair enough. Not only was David Fincher darkly comedic treatment of Gillian Flynn’s lurid thriller a box office success, it was also a great movie. The folks shilling The Girl On The Train would love you to think that they’ve pulled off that trick again. Sadly, they haven’t. Though the movie tries to be as nasty and twisted as its would-be spiritual predecessor, it lacks the brains and irony that made Gone Girl more than tastefully cheap thrills. This movie is dullsville, despite a variety of narrative tricks, pretty cinematography, and a talented cast trying to pretend otherwise. Don’t be fooled.

The Girl On The Train (Movie) Review 2Emily Blunt stars as an alcoholic who was recently dumped. She now spends her days torturing herself by riding the train past her old house to gaze upon her lost happiness. Her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) now lives there with his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) and the bouncing baby that Blunt could never provide. There’s also another house that Blunt obsesses over. One belonging to two sexy young former neighbours (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) who sex it up constantly because they are all sexy and enjoy sexy times celebrating their sexiness. Viewers also get a taste of Bennett’s passionlessly sexed-up life that includes flirtatious trips to her sexy psychologist (Edgar Ramirez). Then one day Bennett disappears and is presumed dead. The last person seen stumbling around near the missing woman? Why, Blunt’s drunken peeping tom of course!

So, that’s the convoluted set up. And as if it isn’t all needlessly complicated enough, director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and his screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) tell it in the least straightforward way possible. Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and shifting perspectives run wild. For a while, it’s impossible not to feel confused. You might even feel stupid for getting lost. Then the whole thing snaps into place and you actually feel angry for having to pay so much attention to such a stupid story. This is just a melodramatic potboiler dressed up with extra sex, violence, and non-linear storytelling. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, steamy thrillers can be delightful. However, this one is tedious and uninteresting, not to mention predictable despite all the narrative gymnastics pretending otherwise.

Admittedly, Emily Blunt is quite good in the lead role, which is one thing this stupid movie has going for it. Somehow she creates a genuinely tragic character amidst a sea of clichés and cartoons. If anything, that only emphasizes how far off the mark everything else in the movie lands, but at least it’s one good thing in this pile of trash. It’s as if Tate Taylor told all his actors to avoid any emotions in their performances, playing their parts like mannequins who occasionally spit out monotone dialogue. It’s weird there are so few actual onscreen murders in the movie, given that every character already appears to be dead.

What The Girl On The Train really needs is a sense of humour, or some form of naughty fun. There’s nothing wrong with lurid trash if the folks making it realize they are in silly territory and don’t pretend they are delivering art. Oddly, Tate Taylor’s previous directorial outings were quite playful and self-conscious. He has proven to be the right kind of filmmaker to milk the dark humour and hidden commentary out of this source material like Fincher/Flynn did with Gone Girl. Perhaps that tone was stomped out in editing by tampering producers. It’s possible.

Regardless, what should have been nasty fun is merely nasty. There are times when audiences will laugh out loud (especially during one absolutely ridiculous climatic act of violence), but never on purpose. That’s a shame, since a more self-aware telling could have gotten those laughs and delivered a subversive bit of mainstream entertainment. After all, that’s what made Gone Girl so popular. Viewers who took that silliness at face value could still have their dumb thrills, while everyone else could also enjoy the layers of mischievous satire and subversion.

The Girl On The Train, on the other hand, is just for dummies who fall for clichés and never dig beneath the surface. Instead of a great B-movie, it’s a pretentious D-movie with glossy production values and pretty actors marking time for paychecks. Don’t waste your time like they wasted theirs.