Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, John Cusack, Dean Norris, Radha Mitchell, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Katherine LaNasa, 50 Cent, Michael McGrady, Gia Mantegna, Matt Gerald, Brad William Henke, Kevin Dunn, Kurt Fuller
Written by: Scott Walker
Directed by: Scott Walker
MPAA Rating: R for violent content, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use
Running Time: 105
Date: 08/23/2013

The Frozen Ground (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Chill Factor

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As written and directed by Scott Walker, The Frozen Ground isn't great, but it is surprisingly effective, thanks to its no-frills approach and its care with the actors and characters.

In 1983, young women keep disappearing from the Anchorage, Alaska area. Sgt. Jack Holcombe (Nicolas Cage) is about to be transferred when another body turns up. At the same time, prostitute/stripper Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) has just escaped the clutches of a potential rapist/murderer, Robert Hansen (John Cusack), and has given her report to the police. For Holcombe, it's open and shut, but he must deal with a noncommittal police department that refuses to issue warrants, as well as his skittish witness who doesn't want to get involved. Yet each time Cindy goes into public, her life is in danger. There's only so much time to catch Hansen before another victim loses her life.

Writer/director Scott Walker keeps his restless camera constantly roving, which is fine when something is happening, but headache-inducing during static conversation scenes. Also, Walker is clearly intending reverence toward the real-life victims, which makes the movie feel constantly dreary.

Yet at some point, it begins to work. The characters have an inner life, and the performances are strong, especially a steely-eyed Cage, who has his best part in some time. As the killer, Cusack is soft spoken, but repellent. He's not an object of fascination, which is a unique and refreshing approach. The movie takes a few silly short cuts here and there -- and a pimp character played by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson seems to be the center for most of them -- but overall this is a decent effort.

Best Buy Co, Inc.