Netflix UK / VOD film review: The Frozen Ground (or, The John Cusack Sweat-o-Meter)
James R | On 23, Dec 2013
Director: Scott Walker
Cast: John Cusack, Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens
Watch online: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Film 4oD / Virgin Movies / EE / TalkTalk
Go back to the 1990s and you’d be forgiven for thinking that John Cusack doesn’t sweat. His clean young face and easygoing charm belonged to a man born without sweat glands – or that if perspiration ever did creep onto his brow, his likeable charisma simply convinced it to slide back underneath his skin.
Fast forward to the noughties and it turns out that John Cusack definitely does sweat. He sweats more than an American tourist on the Central Line.
A stressed-out horror victim in 1408, a hunted chauffeur in Identity; his face became noticeably more moist as his range of films turned darker. In 2013, that moisture turned into a veritable pool of salt as Cusack was drenched as psychotic killer Hillary in The Paperboy, probably the sweatiest film ever made.
In The Frozen Ground, he’s at it again, dripping nervous beads all over the cold Alaskan ground as serial killer Robert Hanson.
Based on a true story, Scott Walker’s thriller follows the police’s attempts to convict Hanson in 1983 following the escape of almost-victim Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens). The problem is that in staying so slavish to the facts, the movie already has a set ending – and the script can’t cut corners to get there any faster. Reunited with his Con Air co-star, a subdued Nicolas Cage plays bland lead cop Jack Halcombe, plodding through the procedure in a cliche-ridden script that never quite gathers momentum. DoP Patrick Murguia shoots the Alaskan scenery with a pretty enough eye, but while Walker is aiming for Insomnia territory, The Frozen Ground proves too slippery a climb.
Thank goodness, then, that Cusack is on hand to break typecasting again as the slimy villain. Pitted against a stand-out Vanessa Hudgens as the rundown prostitute (herself unsupported by Scott’s occasional male-gazing shots of her dance club), the fidgety Cusack bottles everything up until he explodes; it’s a quiet turn that gives this forgettable, generic piece the skin-prickling edge it desperately needs. With its focus on Cage’s truth-seeking hero, The Frozen Ground isn’t exactly dripping with tension – but thanks to Cusack, at least it’s dripping with something. Needless to say, he sweats buckets.
The Frozen Ground is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.