The chilling story of Alaska's most notorious serial killer - bespectacled family man Robert Hansen - is recounted in writer-director Scott Walker's solid thriller. Nicolas Cage plays persistent State Trooper Jack Halcombe, whose dogged investigation halted Hansen (John Cusack) before he could add to his twenty-odd tally of young women victims. Vanessa Hudgens plays the teenage hooker whose escape from the clutches of the killer led Halcombe to his psychotic quarry.
After a dispiriting run of dumbly routine thrillers - Stolen, Trespass, Justice - Nicolas Cage raises his game with this workmanlike police procedural.
He plays Alaska State Trooper Jack Halcombe, a husband and father with just two weeks left on his present job when he gets the call to investigate a kidnapping and rape.
The victim is Cindy Paulson (Hudgens), a teenage hooker who alleges she was picked up on the icy streets of Anchorage by respected local baker Robert Hansen (Cusack), then chained up and raped only to escape just before he was to bundle her onto his light plane and take off to the Alaskan wilderness.
Predictably, her overwrought testimony is regarded as the fanciful accusations of a devious prostitute (despite Hansen having form) and he's indignantly cleared when he puts forward an alibi who checks out.
However, Halcombe finds his curiosity piqued when the decomposing body of a teenage girl - slain with a hunting rifle - is discovered on the banks of the remote Knik River...and further research reveals similar deaths of young women over the previous years.
Rather than a whodunit, writer-director Scott Walker has put together a police procedural where the main narrative thrust is provided by Halcombe having to collate enough evidence for action to be taken against Hansen, whose identity as the mass murderer is provided early on.
To ramp up the dramatic tension he unnecessarily introduces a fictitious plot strand which sees the venal Hansen paying a local enforcer to persuade Paulson's pimp (50 Cent) to hand her over to him for a grim fate.
To be honest, Cusack doesn't have a great deal to do except ooze sleaze as the speccy psycho who chills out to soft rock while his young victim whimpers in a corner or piously recites grace with his family before the next abduction.
Cage doesn't exactly stretch himself but it's the sort role that sees him playing to his strengths as an empathetic father figure while Hudgens buries her butter-wouldn't-melt rep as the potty-mouthed strumpet happy grinding a stripper's pole while wired on crack.
Anchorage provides an atmospherically chilly location and the scenes shot with the predatory Cusack in the snowy wilderness certainly provide an icy dread among the stunning mountain scenery.
For a film where the outcome isn't in any real doubt from the first reel, The Frozen Ground provides food for thaw-t.