It looks as if the once-bright prospects for Michael Fassbender’s The Snowman are melting away.
Critics have given the Tomas Alfredson-directed thriller the cold shoulder, as reactions head south to the tune of 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (average score of 3.4/10) and a 28 weighted average on Metacritic.
Based on Jo Nesbø’s 2007 novel of the same name, the film — about a detective, Harry Hole (Fassbender), who investigates the disappearance of a woman amid the dreaded resurgence of a menacing, seasonal serial killer — features an impressive cast (Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, Chloë Sevigny), though critics have noted that even they can’t save the film from its disastrous trappings.
“The Snowman is a largely pedestrian affair, turgid and humorless in tone,” writes The Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Dalton. “The cast share zero screen chemistry, much of the dialogue feels like a clunky first draft and the wearily familiar plot is clogged with clumsy loose ends. While Nesbo’s novel was a pulpy page-turner, formulaic but effective, Alfredson and his team have somehow managed to drain it of tension.”
Guy Lodge, writing for Variety, agrees.
“Like a game of narrative Jenga, every excised element appears to have weakened the whodunnit’s overall structure, toward a climax that may well succeed in catching viewers off-guard,” he notes, “but in large part because of how little sense, both practically and emotionally, it makes in immediate retrospect.”
Read on for more scathing reviews for The Snowman, which opens Friday, Oct. 20 in theaters.
Manhola Dargis (The New York Times)
Certainly The Snowman might have been better if someone at some point had learned from [Howard] Hawks (always a good idea) and let the characters handle the plot. That might have helped, at least a little. The movie is based on a novel by the popular Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, whose intricately involved, atmospheric tales are far more complex — they have politics, themes and worldviews — than anything in this movie. Shot to shot, Mr. Alfredson and his estimable team give you plenty to look at, including acres of blinding white snow, noirish nights, desaturated pooling red, a sleekly generic Euro-scape and Mr. Fassbender’s expressionless mug. Yet there’s no glue — not a whiff of life or a single substantial, grounding directorial idea — that makes this pottage work scene to scene.
Gary Thompson (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Snowman registers both as a bad thriller and a kind of anti-tourism ad that makes you never want to go to Oslo. That’s nothing against Norwegians — you’ll note that there aren’t any in the movie. It’s one of those blandified international productions full of people who are British, vaguely British, or stranded Americans who can’t make up their minds about how British they want to be. J.K. Simmons goes for Anglo-Oslo mash-up, Chloë Sevigny is full-on fake British. The ingenious solution of Val Kilmer is to play a mumbling drunk, so nobody knows what he’s saying or where he’s from, or even what he’s doing in the movie.
Amy Nicholson (Uproxx)
There’s a frozen loogie at the heart of The Snowman… Ultimately, both [the film’s] dark themes or any twinkling sense of play get buried under Alfredson’s frigid good taste. In the opening scene, a young boy stands on a frozen lake and hears the low moan of treacherous ice, an almost whale-song sound of pressure from pieces wanting to break loose. The whole film sounds like that. Literally, when people fire pistols near ski-lifts and scamper across deceptively safe-looking terrain. But also subconsciously, when you sense that The Snowman isn’t the dim, disappointing movie anyone involved intended to make.
Matt Goldberg (Collider)
The cinematic equivalent of hypothermia… The worst part of The Snowman is when you’re halfway through the film and you realize no answer is going to make this tedious picture come together. No revelation about the killer, no discovery about his motives, and no climatic resolution will make up for this frigid, painfully dull movie, but you’ve still got an hour left to go. You know that if you were going to care about these characters, you’d be invested by now. You know that if you cared about the identity of the killer, you’d have formulated some theories in your head. The appeal of the “whodunit?” is that on some basic level, we want answers. But with The Snowman, all it gets from us is a “Who cares?”
Guy Lodge (Variety)
It might take an investigator more intuitive than Hole to pinpoint precisely where and how things unraveled in a production that seems to have been second-, third- and fourth-guessed at every turn, and bears the manifold scars and stitches of on-the-fly rethinking. The late addition to the credits of Scorsese’s revered editor Thelma Schoonmaker, supplementing the work of the estimable Claire Simpson, hints at a high level of creative uncertainty over just how to fillet and present Nesbø’s dense, misdirection-filled yarn: an introduction to Hole for film franchise purposes, though adapted from the seventh novel in a series. That may partially explain why the character — a taciturn alcoholic whose functionality yo-yos from one scene to the next — never comes into crisp focus.
Stephen Dalton (The Hollywood Reporter)
In a movie that had more layers, deeper questions and more fully evolved characters, such predictable touches would not necessarily be fatal lapses. But The Snowman does not do subtext. Indeed, its by-the-numbers script barely qualifies as text. When the killer’s risible psychological motivation is finally revealed, it feels as if the screenwriters began reading Freud for Dummies, but did not even get to the end. Alfredson has yet to make a terrible film, and The Snowman is certainly not terrible, but it falls way short of what a superior big-budget thriller should deliver.
Jason Solomons (The Wrap)
For all his red-eyed, hangover acting, Fassbender cannot make his detective interesting; Hole is about the right name for this characterless performance. Even the dependable Ferguson looks lost in the snowdrifts of the script. All around them, sub-plots, tangents and flashbacks feel casually cobbled together, a smorgasbord where all the herrings are red and the krispbread clichés gone stale.
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
The Snowman is, in fact, an adaptation of a popular Norwegian novel by author Jo Nesbø, though the reasons for its source material’s popularity are difficult to discern from the film version, which is a hackneyed and instantly forgettable detective thriller about a deranged killer who leaves a trail of decapitated women and crude snowmen in his wake. Along the way, he also turns two very good actors into cogs in a rusty machine of torpid plot and gruesome violence.
Mike McCahill (IndieWire)
The Snowman is too ponderous to quicken the pulse, and too drably, insistently grey to provide an accidental campfest for would-be snowmen-spotters. For all the considerable nous assembled either side of the camera, no one can rescue it from its own mediocrity: if this were the opening act of a TV miniseries, you’d be exploring other channels some time between the second and third ad breaks.