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  Frozen Ground, The Man Hunt
Year: 2013
Director: Scott Walker
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, John Cusack, Dean Norris, Gia Mantegna, Robert Forgit, Brad William Henke, Michael McGrady, Katharine LaNasa, Ryan O'Nann, Kevin Dunn, Radha Mitchell, Matt Gerald, Jodi Lynn O'Keefe, 50 Cent, Olga Valentina, Kurt Fuller
Genre: Thriller, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1983, the place the state of Alaska, and police have been called to a disturbance in an Anchorage apartment; they break down the door and discover a hysterical young woman, Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) who has been handcuffed and trapped inside. The cops cannot make much sense out of her, but on taking her to the hospital she becomes more coherent, and claims a man they identify as Robert Hansen (John Cusack) kidnapped her when she was working as a prostitute, but he has an alibi which places him somewhere else at the time so they do not arrest him. However, one detective, Jack Holcombe (Nicolas Cage) is more determined...

The case of Robert Hansen was pretty well known as one of the most prolfic serial killers of his day, with many victims identified and many more suspected, some never found as he buried them in the wilderness to ensure they would not be discovered. His arrogance caught up with them because some of the bodies were indeed found, shot to death as he liked to "hunt" them as if they were wild animals, which is why Holcombe suspected a multiple murderer is operating in the region, and had been for some years. All of this left a film with few surprises, even if you didn't know the case, and more or less upfront Cusack's Hansen is shown to be the criminal he was.

So we had to look to writer and director Scott Walker (in his feature debut) and his theme for the real interest in the events, assuming you were not watching simply to see a sensational murder case re-enacted with famous people in the main roles. That theme was the degradation of women, not that the film was doing that, but what it depicted was; we saw the home life of Holcombe and his family (Radha Mitchell played his wife in a role you had to presume was cut down in the final edit, since she is hardly present), but mostly we saw the depressing life of the prostitutes and strippers who were in such positions in life when not only men were forcing them there, but many of their fellow women did the same, suggesting a callous quality to what an existence such as this breeds.

Vanessa Hudgens, attempting to break out of the teen-friendly ghetto, committed herself to a brittle and vulenerable performance no matter how much her character wished to prove herself streetwise and self-reliant, but she isn't, Cindy is buffetted along by the wants of the males in the plot, all of whom wish to exploit her. Certainly Holcombe is looking out for her best interests, but he is still using the girl to snare Hansen, and you leave the film thinking she really could have been better treated, but then so could every female who was around in this seedy Alaskan scenario of strip clubs and whorehouses. Therefore Walker's right on credentials were undoubtedly worn on his sleeve, which you would hope would give many a viewer pause for thought.

Of course, there would be a substantial part of the audience more in the mindset of ghouls wishing to watch recreations of a notorious series of events, and the film was well-acted enough to supply that, though to its credit it did not grow too gruesome and never lost sight of the fact there were real victims involved who were not characters in some cheap slasher movie. Liberties were taken with the facts as had to be expected when streamlining a sprawling case into an hour and three quarters, and there were instances where you felt Walker was editorialising to put his own agenda across, but Cage was restrained to a commendable degree, illustrating how he could reel himself in when needed: any over the top wackiness would be completely out of place, after all. Cusack kept it uncomfortable in Hansen's surface normality, and the rest of the cast were peppered with such names as Dean Norris, playing another cop, and 50 Cent as Cindy's pimp. But perhaps surprisingly for some, it was really Hudgens' show. Music by Lorne Balfe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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