The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Words: Brody Rossiter
Cusack and Cage: two names which are stamped upon many film lovers’ fondest cinematic memories and vast home-video collections – for better or worse. The zany, sometimes borderline psychotic, outbursts of Nic Cage (“Not the Bees!”) and the romantic longings of John Cusack have rippled throughout decades of big screen offerings. From Cusack’s Grosse Pointe Blank, to Cage’s The Bad Lieutenant (2009), the pair’s stranglehold upon cult-cinema’s crowning moments is perhaps unsurpassed amongst their peers.
Semi-murder mystery (the audience is under no illusion as to where the guilt lies from the get-go), The Frozen Ground, treads, well, new ground for the celebrated pair, as Cage plays it surprisingly straight, and Cusack ditches his loveable ‘man of the disillusioned people’ schtick in favour of an uncharacteristic ‘man who likes brutally raping and murdering prostitutes’ schtick.
Despite heavy doses of a scantily clad, crack-addled Vanessa Hudgens, The Frozen Ground‘s major lure is that of Cage and Cusack’s efforts to challenge their typical onscreen personalities. Cage toning it down has been seen before, exhibiting varying levels of success, though due to the barrage of YouTube compilations and Tumblr memes, it still feels unusual to see him not diving headfirst into a big bucket of crazy gumbo. Adversely, John Cusack is the ultimate high-brow buddy to cinemagoers. He’s made a career of being an idealistic dreamer who condenses our lifetimes of longing and hurt at not being able to knock boots with the hot high school chick into two-hour film classics. To see this everyday hero descend into a plug hole of creepy 80’s glasses, taxidermy, and rapey whisperings, is, to say the least, a tad jarring. Curtis ‘Fiddy Cent’ Jackson also takes a minor role as a furr wearing pimp, but I’m still undecided as to whether that memorable casting decision was for the best… it probably wasn’t.
Nevertheless, both men portray engaging characters, and successfully adopt their new roles within this dramatic fight for justice between a tortured state trooper and sadistic serial killer. Rain-soaked, snow-capped Anchorage, Alaska is becoming somewhat overexposed as a location for gloomy thrillers, though its inhospitable vastness still proves darkly atmospheric, while the true story beneath this retelling provides a raw and unnerving edge to the narrative. A patchy, but ultimately intriguing (especially for Cage and Cusack fans) and hard-hitting hunt through the unforgiving wilderness of red-light district streets and bleak mountain peaks.