There are quite a few dead bodies depicted in “The Snowman.” Alas, the biggest stiff here is the movie itself.
Adapted from a 2007 novel by a major writer of Scandinavian crime fiction, Jo Nesbo, “The Snowman” boasts some very handsome production values and a strong cast. Its convoluted story is another matter entirely.
We’re in Norway, where Nesbo’s damaged police detective Harry Hole (played by Michael Fassbender) cleans himself up long enough to tackle a serial murder case. Hole is depressed partly because his ex (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is seeing another man (Jonas Karlsson), with whom Harry shares fatherly responsibilities to a young boy.
On the job, Harry is paired with a determined officer (Rebecca Ferguson, from the last “Mission: Impossible” movie) in tracking down a maniac who builds snowmen near the crime scenes.
Meanwhile, there’s an Oslo bigwig (J.K. Simmons, in a change of pace from his usual blowhards) whose relationship to the crimes is, at best, bewildering. But all will be clarified by the fade-out, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to happen in these things.
The murders are somehow connected with a decade-old case that involved another cop, played in flashbacks by Val Kilmer. Here I feel we must be charitable, because Kilmer has had health issues in recent years; let’s hope his bizarre presence (almost a non-presence, given that the movie keeps cutting away from him) is an aberration.
Fassbender is weatherbeaten and completely convincing, and Ferguson and Gainsbourg are excellent in support. But they are fighting against a story that might have been confusing even if the movie didn’t appear to have been edited with an immersion blender.
Some plot points are blatantly pasted together with awkward voiceover dialogue, and entire scenes seem to play out of order or for no apparent reason.
It would be easier to shrug off this film if it didn’t seem like a wasted opportunity for Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, who has merely directed two of the best films of this century, “Let the Right One In” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
Alfredson’s eye for stunning wintry landscapes is on display — there are shots in this film that are flat-out breathtaking. But something went awry between page and screen, and “The Snowman” collapses accordingly.
“The Snowman” (1½ stars)
A bungled adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Scandinavian crime novel, in which weatherbeaten Oslo detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) takes on a serial-murder case. The talented director Tomas Alfredson can’t sort out the confusing story, and the film appears to have been assembled with an immersion blender. With Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Meridian, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall