The Frozen Ground
Alaskan set thriller which reunites Nicolas Cage and John Cusack
The feature debut of writer and director Scott Walker is an odd mix of formulaic thriller and true-life story, resulting in something sporadically successful but often uninspired. In The Frozen Ground Nicolas Cage and John Cusack - co-stars from Con Air - are reunited under very different (and less entertaining) circumstances; this time Cusack is the wanted man and Cage the pursuer.
It's Alaska, 1983 and a serial killer is operating with horrible impunity. He's Robert Hansen (Cusack) a baker and family man who's identified at the outset after one of his targets escapes his clutches. The surviving victim is Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), a troubled 17-year-old working in the sex industry. Enter Detective Jack Halcombe (Cage), a State Trooper who connects the attack on Cindy to numerous unsolved crimes and disappearances.
The Frozen Ground highlights the misogyny, bureaucracy and incompetence that hampered the investigation and doesn't dwell too hideously on the crimes. But it hares along, failing to flesh out its characters or establish a strong or consistent identity, with the handheld camerawork and true-life origin sitting uncomfortably with the hackneyed dialogue. Yet the focus on Hudgens' victim is refreshing; if we never quite get under her skin we at least get plenty of time in her company, humanising this horror story and giving it a respectful edge.
Cage isn't called upon to do much more than look agonised and authoritative but he does it with typical gusto. Hudgens is solidly sympathetic - although she more convincingly banished memories of her High School Musical past in the recent Spring Breakers. Cusack however is terrific as he graduates from unnerving to something more overtly monstrous. The Frozen Ground delivers a few chills and a little excitement but it doesn't quite earn its classification as a thriller.
General release from Fri 19 Jul.