THE FROZEN GROUND (2013)

Written & Directed By: Scott Walker 
Cinematography By: Patrick Murguia 
Editor: Sarah Boyd 

Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Gia Mantegna, Brad William Henke, Curtis Jackson, Kevin Dunn, Radha Mitchell, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe


Alaska Trooper Jack Holcombe believes Robert Hansen is a serial killer who abducts young girls, tortures and sexually assaults them, then kills them. But Holcombe doesn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant for Hansen’s premises. Holcombe knows that one victim, Cyndy Paulsen, somehow survived, so he decides to seek her help, but he finds that she’s now a junkie with trust issues. Holcombe has to earn her trust; meanwhile, Hansen is still hunting and killing girls.

The film luckily offers not as many Nicolas cage cliche freakouts as he plays his role here more straight and narrow.

John Cusack is the surprise here even though He plays it straight which might turn a typical audience away from the film as it isn’t going to have the payoff that is expected. He doesn’t really get to shine until the last act of the film. Before it is purely facial and physical. That makes you wonder if he is just a face to inhabit the Villain.

We follow not only the detective, but the killer a little less would have been nice to see the killer’s day-to-day life and see if it particularly tortures him like an addiction or if he had any questions about his actions.

We also follow the survivor played by Vanessa Hudgens as she tries to go on With her life with plenty of bumps along the way as the case isn’t publicized and she isn’t some celebrated victim or even protected. In fact, as she was previously a prostitute no one really takes her too seriously, and now has to go back to a dangerous lifestyle that got her nearly killed in the first place. She gives it her all, again might have been nice to see her try and go straight it get a better life. It’s strange but telling of the film’s quality and the changing face of distribution that while the film has a high caliber cast and director of today and not so long ago this film never made it to theaters and instead premiered on direct to DVD/streaming.

Though it’s off-putting funny when she begins to talk street-tough all of a sudden with a pimp. But at least she gives it an honest try and does not go into cliche. Though the bonding of the characters would have been nice gradual over time instead of exposing history all in one scene.

50 cent (credited under his real name Curtis Jackson) is also one of the film’s producers. Is getting to be a better actor playing the smarmy/seamier type of roles. Though his appearance is more of a surprise.

Though due to the casting we already know when the killer is and what we are to expect. It’s only in his they catch him. It’s less s thriller than trying to finally get him and for her to testify. Though in scenes with his family. You sense darkness and vitality about him.

The suspense comes in towards the third act. As it finally gets thrilling. As there is some before that but it truly intensifies in the last act.

The film taking place in such a remote land. Help make the action feel small scale even though tawdry. And as the film sticks to more of the real-life story. The film is absent of scenes of hunting or chases or even graphic violence. More focusing like a LAW & ORDER episode on catching the killer before he kills again. Rather than seeing his violent actions. Maybe as it is based on a true story they could only go with known Information and not flesh out the characters that the story could have had more than one would expect. The film doesn’t seem to break out of its own procedural ways. Should feel a bit bigger or more meaningful to a degree. The film keeps your interest but never truly engages you emotionally

In the final scenes, the suspense is felt as Cage gets frustrated as no evidence can be found. Which questioning him and keeps getting updates and upset. That is when the film manages to get a reaction out of the audience.

The film reminds me of the early days of so-called serial killing investigations. Before they were known to the general public. The hard work out in so that research was there and available for the private investigation Barely and at times In the film that comes in time and again. The ending hammers home the tragedy of the story for all of its entertainment

Grade: C

DEN OF THIEVES (2018)

Written & Directed By: Christian Gudegast 
Story By: Christian Gudegast & Paul Scheuring 
Cinematography By: Terry Stacey 
Editor: Nathan Godley, Joel Cox & David Cox 

Cast: Gerard Butler, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Pablo Schrieber, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Meadow Williams, Brian Van Holt, Jordan Bridges, Dawn Olivieri, Maurice Compte, Evan Jones, Mo McRae 

A gritty L. A crime saga that follows the intersecting and often personally connected lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles.


I will be the first to admit this film is better than you might think it will be.

While you watch it. It seems to be a film that is inspired by HEAT and wants the audience to see both sides of the fence when it comes to the criminals and the cops chasing them. Though when it comes to the cops we only really see Gerard Butler’s home life and problems. When it comes to the criminals we see glimpses but mainly see 50 cent’s family and Pablo Schrieber’s planning.

At least when it comes to 50 cent’s daily the film adds some humor in the form of a warning to his daughters’ prom date. Which also helps humanize the character and the crew.

The film was in development for roughly fourteen years, where director Christian Gudegast and a writing partner had a blind deal with New Line Cinema in 2003. The project was also later supposed to be distributed by the now-defunct Relativity Media at one point as well. His original cut was 160 minutes long and had a different ending. Which would have added even more brooding to the film I am guessing.

The film is filled with testosterone galore with plenty of muscles up men with tank tops of their shirts off and sweaty. Using the guide or reasoning of working out of a home gym where they plan their caper.

It also seems to want to keep a kind of aggressive Mano e Mano tone. Where all the characters tend to be over the top tough and dangerous and females stay mostly in the background.

Though one is used as a kind of power play against one another. This only adds to the leaders of each side mutual respect but also a kind of sabotage they try against one another. As they know a showdown between them is coming and literally are sizing each other up.

Prior to filming, two separate boot camps were run in order to get the cops and the robbers in shape for their respective roles with both groups training separately to enforce a rival atmosphere. Interestingly, each group was trained differently by military consultant Paul Maurice.

O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s character is our introduction to this film and world as he is trying to be part of this crew as a getaway driver. He is the only new guy on the crew and goes through the ropes of intimidation. While also being forced by the cops to be an informant. He also seems to be our protagonist, but soon he and his storyline seem lost in the shuffle as the film begins to become a passing contest of one-up-manship between Pablo and Gerard.

While we wait for the heist that is promised to ensue. Most of the film is about the build-up of the different diversions and challenges thrown in front of each other and having to defeat or subvert in able to move forward and just as aggressive as the heist is these moves they make before are just as strong and motivated.

The film does offer beautiful visuals and quite stirring action sequences. As the heist fits all the required tension you want and expect. So that by the end it feels like a good modern-day heist caper film. Where we only learn of the logistics of the plan when it happens.

The film is building as it goes while we wait for the eventual showdown and release.

The film leaves you to wonder if the character of Gerard Butler was driven due to his failing marriage. So he seems more amped up and ready to go over the line. As it seems to be what he is good at and more capable of controlling even though supposedly more dangerous and unpredictable than a relationship. As at first he and his crew seem either dirty or more adept at bending the rules then they actually are eventually seen as pretty by the book.

By the end of the film, you have sympathy for the robbers as we meet their families and situations. Only to find out both sides were played against the other. By the end, it seems to try too hard to set itself apart by all of a sudden Introducing a twist. That while it works wasn’t really necessary.

It achieves what it set’s out to prove. It also doesn’t overthink itself or tries to show off for the audience more than what it has. Nor does it gloat or focus on any twists it offers up.

Grade: B