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Movie Review: “The Frozen Ground”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Frozen Ground

Theatrical Release: 8/23/2013

Theatrical Release: 8/23/2013

Synopsis

A serial killer is on the prowl in Alaska. He targets young prostitutes, trying to earn whatever they can to get them to their next fix. Due to the lifestyle of his victims, local authorities have not exactly been turning over every stone in their search for answers. However, an Alaskan State Trooper named Jack Halcombe (Nicholas Cage) catches wind of the case, and is devoted to catching the killer, stopping him from hurting another young woman.

Unfortunately, no one knows who the serial killer is. All of his victims are dead, and no one has been able to identity him. As a result, the case could very well go cold, but when a young woman manages to escape the killer, Sergeant Jack Halcombe may finally have his key witness. Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) barely escaped the killer. She was traumatized by what he did, as well as what he was surely going to do if he found her again, but her lifestyle has left her reluctant to help authorities. She does not trust the police, so Sergeant Jack Halcombe will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to get her to trust him. Her experience has made her a valuable asset, as she has information that could help track the killer down and identify him, but it becomes increasingly obvious that the killer is very much aware of this, and he is more desperate than ever to finish what he started.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Case (+6pts)

Robert Hansen (-4pts)

Vanessa Hudgens (+4pts)

Cindy Paulson (-5pts)

Nicholas Cage & John Cusack (+6pts)

Shallow (-6pts)

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Pro: The Case (+6pts)

I feel like I have seen this story before, but it was still compelling in this movie. A serial killer was on the prowl, prostitutes were the killer's primary targets, which resulted in the case not getting enough attention by authorities, so the killer was still at large. Then a good cop came around, gave the case the attention it deserved, and progress was made. This premise has been done before—Lost Girls comes to mind right away, although that movie was released years after this one—but it was still an effective premise.

It was easy to get invested in the injustice that occurred on this case. It was easy to get invested in the potential corruption that allowed the killer to evade being caught for so long. It was easy to get invested in wanting to see the killer get what he deserved. Yes, this was not a very original story, but it was still an effective premise, as it got me wanting to see justice get served.

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Con: Robert Hansen (-4pts)

The filmmakers kept this guy and what he was up to a secret for a good chunk of the movie. They left it up to the viewer to figure out who this guy was, but I think the story would have been better served if the filmmakers had gone another way. If they had wanted a shocking reveal for this character, then they should have shown him doing normal things earlier on in the movie. The filmmakers should have tried to get us to care about this guy before the reveal, which would have made us more emotionally invested in the reveal when it happened.

The other option—and I think this would have been the better option—for this character would have been to clue the audience in on who he was and what he was doing from the very beginning. They should have still kept the protagonists in the dark to make the audience feel like there was a hunt that was happening. However, showing this character doing what he was doing, to multiple girls, and showing him getting away with it for so long would have made the viewer far more invested in seeing him get caught. The filmmakers instead went in a direction with little impact, and I thought it was a wasted opportunity for something great.

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Pro: Vanessa Hudgens (+4pts)

Vanessa Hudgens played Cindy Paulson, and as much as I hated the character, I thought Vanessa Hudgens did a good job with the role. I will get into what I did not like about the character later, but I thought Vanessa Hudgens added a surprising amount of depth and emotion to the character. She made it clear that the character felt like she was alone, even though she was surrounded by people who wanted to help. She also made it clear that, while she wanted to put up a strong front around other people, the character was very much traumatized about what happened, and terrified that the killer would find her. Again, I was not a fan of the character for reasons that I will get into later, but I thought Vanessa Hudgens added a lot more depth to the character than I thought she would, and it was enough to get me caring about the character’s fate, even though I could not stand some of the horrible decisions the character made.

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Con: Cindy Paulson (-5pts)

This was one of those characters where the filmmakers used her as a plot device. There were plenty of times when Cindy Paulson felt safe, and it felt like things were going to be alright. However, the filmmakers wanted drama and they did not want us to feel comfortable. Their solution was to make Cindy Paulson the most self-destructive character that I have seen in a long time.

You thought she was safe because she had police officers watching her? No problem, the writers just had her escape her own security. You thought she was safe, because she was staying with Jack HalCombe? Well guess what, the writers had her sneak out of his house as well. Every time she was even remotely safe, the writers had her make the absolute worst decisions possible. This happened multiple times, and it got progressively more irritating every time it happened.

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Pro: Nicholas Cage & John Cusack (+6pts)

I do not think anyone will find these performances all that impressive. I sort of knew what to expect from these two in this movie, and that was what they delivered. They delivered decent, believable performances, that helped suck me into the story. Nicholas Cage was Nicholas Cage, and it gave this movie a reliable protagonist to follow. He delivered exactly what you would expect him to deliver, and it worked.

Then there was John Cusack who made his character feel in control in the most dangerous way, but he also made the character feel like he was on the precipice of losing it and becoming dangerously unhinged. This made him feel unpredictable, and it made it hard to look away from him when he was on screen. Was this either actor’s greatest performance? No, far from it, but they were exactly what this movie needed them to be.

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Con: Shallow (-6pts)

This could have been solved by properly developing the character of Robert Hansen, but I thought this movie felt pretty shallow. What I mean by that is, given the serious subject matter of this story and the case it was about, this movie should have been a lot more engaging and impactful than it ended up being. I never felt truly invested in the story, and that should not have been the case. Girls were being kidnapped and preyed upon, and that should have made for a story that viewers would be really engaged in, wanting to see the monster responsible be brought to justice. However, it never felt like the filmmakers really dove deep into the emotion and the weight that this case had the potential of bringing out. It felt like the filmmakers just went though the motions, and it made this movie feel like the hollow shell of what it could have been.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (76pts)

I saw the trailer for this movie, and I was hopeful, but I ended up being pretty disappointed by it. The premise was one that I have seen done before, but it was effective nonetheless, as it very naturally draws out the viewer’s desire to see justice served. Vanessa Hudgens played a frustratingly written, plot-device character, but she added a surprising amount of depth, which made me care about the character‘s fate anyway. Then there were Nicholas Cage and John Cusack, who did not deliver anything special, but both were exactly what this movie needed them to be.

Unfortunately, like I mentioned before, Vanessa Hudgens’ character was frustrating, as the writers had her making catastrophically horrible decisions whenever they needed to keep the plot moving. I also thought the filmmakers made a mistake by not giving more development to Robert Hansen, as doing so would have made viewers a lot more invested in this story. This movie had a naturally engaging case, that could have made for a really impactful and emotional story, but the filmmakers told it in a way that made it feel like a hollow version of the story that it could have been. It was not a bad movie, but I thought it fell disappointingly far from its potential.

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