Walker does deserve an enormous amount of credit for approaching seemingly familiar territory in a decidedly different way. Even apart from his three leads, Walker has surrounded himself by a number of other always-appreciated faces, among them Brad William Henke, Radha Mitchell, and Breaking Bad's Dean Norris. (The less said about the long-haired pimp played by 50 Cent, though, the better.) The atmospheric cinematography is often striking, and although The Frozen Ground essentially went straight to video on these shores, its production values are by any standard cinematic. The film benefits immensely from the location photography -- shot in and around Hansen's actual hunting grounds -- and the biting Alaskan cold is very much a character in its own right.
The most troublesome thing about The Frozen Ground is that it's very much the movie it sets out to be. The film is unmistakeably a drama, deliberately steering clear of any standard issue thriller conventions. The Frozen Ground weaves together three connected but
Though it's very much appreciated that Walker has set out to make something different than the same stock thriller we've all seen however many dozens of times, The Frozen Ground is subdued to too far an extreme. There isn't a sense of urgency. The largely parallel storylines too often feel disconnected from one another. Though Hudgens is outstanding as the troubled Cindy Paulson, delivering what is easily the film's most complex and intense performance, she's surrounded by actors who are almost always muted. There's little fire to be found in Cage and Cusack here, too subdued to inspire much in the way of emotional investment. Walker is disinterested in conventional thrills but little else takes their place to truly engage. The frenetic editing and handheld camerawork try to infuse some energy into the film, but they instead make the early stretches of The Frozen Ground feel choppy and almost disorienting.
Some filmmakers aim in a particular direction and fail to hit their marks. Walker, on the other hand, makes it clear in the extras elsewhere on this disc that these are deliberate choices, ones that really are achieved rather than the aftermath of a misfire. I respect that he's trying to accomplish something more respectful and distinctive with The Frozen Ground, but the end result is too dreary, insufficiently engaging, and -- Vanessa Hudgens' tremendous performance aside -- disappointingly forgettable. Rent It.
This Blu-ray release of The Frozen Ground is astonishingly crisp and detailed. Contrast remains robust throughout, benefitting from deep, inky blacks. Though its palette is generally frigid and gray, The Frozen Ground's colors can be striking when the opportunity presents itself. The scope presentation has been encoded at an impressively high bitrate, helping to stave off any concerns with the authoring. The Frozen Ground is also free of any artifacts from edge enhancement or excessive digital noise reduction. This is a first-rate effort from Lionsgate that leaves very little room for complaint.
The Frozen Ground takes a deliberately subdued approach, and much the same can be said about its six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Dialogue is the focal point, consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout. The surrounds are largely reserved for light atmospherics, such as the light rustle of leaves in the wind, as well as reinforcing the score. Activity in the lower frequencies is modest at best. Though the audio here isn't especially immersive, it's still a reasonably strong complement for such an understated drama.
There are no dubs or alternate mixes. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.
Though Lionsgate decided against a theatrical release for The Frozen Ground on these shores, it's been lavished with the special edition treatment just the same.
The Frozen Ground comes packaged in a lightly embossed slipcover, and an UltraViolet digital copy code is tucked inside.
The Final Word
The Frozen Ground is a thoughtful and well-crafted film that shrugs off the trappings so often associated with serial killer antagonists. That would be commendable were it not also so dreary and uninvolving. This is a movie with an approach I respect but can't say I particularly enjoy, and it's difficult to recommend as a purchase sight unseen. Rent It.