Review of Snowman's Land

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While protecting a crime boss's home in the Carpathian Mountains, a contract killer and his lifelong friend get into a dangerous situation when the boss's wife is accidentally killed.
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Movie Review: "Snowman's Land"

-- Rating: Not Rated
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: September 14, 2012
Directed by: Tomasz Thomson
Genre: Comedy and Crime

"Snowman's Land" tells the story of organized crime gone wrong. Starring Jürgen Rißmann, Thomas Wodianka and Reiner Schöne, the movie follows a hit man as he runs for his life after accidentally causing the death of a mob boss' wife. The movie is dark, funny and certain to delight older viewers who enjoy twisted humor.

The story opens on Walter (Jürgen Rißmann), a hired gun for an organized crime ring. When Walter makes a big mistake on a simple job, his boss (Detlef Bothe) fires him. Desperate and penniless, Walter moves from the high-stakes crime world to the only position available to him: a security guard at the vacation home of Berger, another mob boss (Reiner Schöne).

Walter is unable to find solitude in his new mountain retreat home. The mountains are cold, the area is deserted, and his partner Mickey (Thomas Wodianka), another washed-up mobster, makes the situation worse by complaining constantly. A significant part of the film follows the two men as they come to terms with their new surroundings, wandering aimlessly from room to room and wishing they could leave.

The only other person in the house is Berger's freewheeling wife, Sybille (Eva-Katrin Hermann), a young woman unimpressed with her life as a drug dealer's wife. Trapped in the house, miles from any other civilization, the three develop an uncomfortable peace. Though she is not interested in the two men who are protecting her home, she eventually falls prey to the temptation of drugs and boredom and gets involved with Mickey. After an unfortunate accident involving the many guns in Berger's home, Sybille winds up dead.

Terrified of Berger's reaction, Walter and Mickey dispose of Sybille's body. When their boss returns, the two hit men try to cover their tracks, all while ridding the local countryside of Berger's enemies.

At many points, "Snowman's Land" feels distinctly reminiscent of a Coen brothers' film. The cold, forbidding landscape and the dark humor combine to create an atmosphere that is at once gloomy and unwelcoming, much like the Coen brothers' film, "Fargo." Despite the fleeting resemblance, however, "Snowman's Land" has a distinctly European feeling.

Writer and director Tomasz Thomson, who debuted with the movie "Silent Storm," makes the most of the film's setting in the Carpathians. The location is so prevalent in the film, in fact, that it could almost be considered another character. Much is made of the vast, empty landscapes that symbolize Walter and Mickey's isolation. The snowy shots make it clear to viewers that for these two unfortunate men, there can be no escape. Cinematographer Ralf M. Mendle uses the scenery to turn the movie into a beautiful, if bleak, aesthetic experience for viewers. His skillful camera work is designed to portray the outdoor settings in maximum detail, so much so that audience members will almost be able to feel the chill of the cold winter days.

As the unlucky Walter, Jürgen Rißmann gives a remarkably nuanced performance. His character is quiet, but Rißmann manages to convey a great deal of emotion in a single look or shift of posture. Even his simplest lines feel loaded. At many times, viewers may find themselves wondering if Walter is really as slow as he seems-or if there is a diabolical genius hidden under the layers of oafishness. The calm Walter and the always-chattering Mickey make the perfect team. As Mickey, Wodianka is the ideal contrast to Rißmann, both in physical appearance and personality. Although his character never has much of substance to say, Wodianka manages to instill depth and a sense of purpose into the role.

The plot for "Snowman's Land" seems designed to keep viewers on their toes. It twists and turns at a rapid pace, and audience members may be left with their heads spinning. The abrupt story line shifts serve to refocus viewers' attention, however, which helps the film from feeling too bleak-no small feat, given the copious amount of chilly landscape shots. Thomson inserted just enough comedy to keep the film's violence from overwhelming the story, but not so much as to turn it into a farce. In keeping with that theme, the actors chose to use a deadpan style that is subtle and elegant.

Overall, "Snowman's Land" is a darkly funny movie that will entertain fans of other dark comedies such as "Fargo" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." The actors give masterful performances, and the cinematography is spot on, making the film an excellent choice for an evening with friends.

Rating: 3 out of 5