Scandinavian murder-mysteries are somewhat embedded in the public consciousness - think of The Bridge or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. With The Snowman, an adaptation of the seventh entry in Jo Nesbo's detective series, one wonders if the intention was to create a film every bit as abominable as the titular character from the famous 1957 horror film The Abominable Snowman.

A washed-up, alcoholic detective

Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, a washed-up, alcoholic detective, who upon investigating a missing person case in Oslo, realises that it's the work of a serial killer who's been operating in Norway for years.

Enlisting the help of new-recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), they attempt to determine a pattern for a killer who taunts them by making a snowman at each crime scene.

Much like the police force's attempts at solving the case (Katrine, in particular, makes some nonsensical choices), the film is an utter mess, attempting to weave multiple threads and timeframes together. In a woeful opening scene, the motivations of our killer are shown via flashbacks to when they were a child, resulting in a backstory that is as thin as the ice his mother ends up falling through.

An impression of incompleteness

This lack of detail is a recurring theme, with Val Kilmer's appearance as Katrine's father being completely unnecessary - this pointlessness coupled with some awful dubbing (no doubt to limit Kilmer's terrible accent) creates the impression of incompleteness.

His most substantial impact is firing a gun to scare away a flock of birds in an area that's on the brink of an avalanche - a brain-dead action by a detective who seems to be anything but perceptive. It's one of many sub-plots that are brought up but then ignored, with Arve Stop's (JK Simmons with instance number two of a hilarious accent) Winter World Cup bid taking up a portion of the running time despite failing to contribute anything to the progression of the narrative.

It's emblematic of a plot that regularly stagnates - Hole's interactions with his ex-wife, Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), are so wooden you'll be picking out splinters, resulting in a comical non-sex scene that looks more like a contemporary dance routine. He is implied to have some emotional baggage, having a strained relationship with Rakel's son, but barring one unintentionally hilarious conversation, it is another plot point that is left by the wayside.

This is unforgivable

The hotchpotch nature of the film is all the more surprising given director's Tomas Alfredson's past work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film that was built on intricate craftsmanship and patient storytelling. Here, the pacing is as glacial as the Scandinavian setting - the investigation plods along so ponderously you wonder if the Oslo police force (with their laptop-sized camera and GPS tracker) could be any more incompetent, especially if Hole is considered their best detective. This fact is even more laughable given that the identity of the killer is anything but a mystery, making you question how they have evaded capture for so long.

Even without continuity errors (in one scene, Hole is seen to have a moustache before it disappears in the next shot), the lacklustre, tension-free investigation would render the film as underwhelming, but the sheer incompetence of the production is unforgivable.

For Fassbender, after Assassins Creed, this can be marked as another failed attempt at building a franchise - but given that this series already feels lifeless, it's hard to imagine anyone clamouring for another instalment.

Rating: 1/5