That title, complete with a worded intro quoting The Bible, suggests something icier considering it’s all based on a true story. In the 1980s, Robert Hansen was arrested for murdering possibly over 20 women in Alaska. In film, the cold drama is a bland procedure with a needless side-story about the underworld.
Hansen is played by John Cusack in a role that’s less demanding than the biographical demands would otherwise suggest. As a hobby, Hansen captures and rapes young women, before releasing them into the woods and hunts them down. When one victim (Vanessa Hudgens) escapes, the police are sceptical – apart from Nicolas Cage in a rare restrained mood, as if he’s still deciding if he wants to continue with the script.
Rather than a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase, it’s mostly Cage trying to find any evidence left behind by Cusack’s murder trail. It’s a character that needs passion and someone who exaggerates their expressions, otherwise it’s just a guy sorting out paperwork and occasionally cursing. Yet sadly, Cage – who we already know is perfect in that role – goes against type as the “good cop”. His nemesis, Cusack, portrays a serial killer without personality. As you’d expect, their bust-ups (mostly arguments over tables) aren’t exactly riveting.
Much screen time is given to Hudgens, essentially the “hooker with a heart”. The by-the-numbers story only branches out of its comfort zone for an unsettling flashback where she’s chained up and screaming. It perhaps shines a glimmer on her distressed state, but not much can be said for the lengthy scenes where she strips in front of strangers and discusses life with her pimp, 50 Cent. (He does not act as if it’s her birthday.)
Cusack and Cage are competent, even if not entirely memorably – don’t expect any tumblr GIFs, unless you’re a fan of Cage rummaging through paperwork. Underneath, there’s a compelling story that maybe doesn’t work on screen without analysing the killer’s motives. And, without spoiling anything, this finishes with one of the worst narrative-laden lines of dialogue in recent memory.