It’s often a sign of trouble when there are three prominent screenwriters credited for a movie, especially one that’s based on a successful novel. The fact that The Snowman also features separate credits for two editors (one of them Thelma Schoonmaker, executive producer Martin Scorsese’s longtime colleague) doesn’t bode well, either.
These warning signs accurately foretell a bad movie. Michael Fassbender stars in this muddled adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s best-selling thriller about police detective Harry Hole and the hunt for a brutal and insidious serial killer. Set in Norway, with atmospheric shots of the snowy landscape and isolation of its locations, the screenplay also tries—and fails—to interest us in Hole’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son. I couldn’t have cared less.
I’m hard pressed to remember another police procedural that was so dull, or so encumbered in trying to tell its story. Rebecca Ferguson plays a colleague who teams up with Fassbender in trying to solve the case, but proves to have an agenda of her own. J.K. Simmons plays an industrialist who plays a role in the larger picture-puzzle. And Val Kilmer, looking and sounding strange (as if his voice was dubbed) portrays a detective whose investigation into incidents nine years earlier still resonate today. At least, I think that’s what this is all about; the timeline confused me, I must admit.
Toby Jones and Chloe Sevigny turn up in relatively small, unworthy parts amidst a largely Scandinavian ensemble. But it’s all for naught: The Snowman is dense and tedious. How director Tomas Alfredson (who made Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) got caught in the maelstrom of this wrongheaded film I don’t know, but I suspect that there were far too many cooks in the kitchen. (The three credited screenwriters are Peter Vaughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup.)
If you want to see a great adaptation of a Jo Nesbø novel, watch Headhunters instead. This 2011 sleeper gets everything right and piles one surprise on top of another. It puts The Snowman to shame.