Hansen, who owned a bakery, was a regular family man, with a good-looking wife and two children. Regardless, he stalked the streets of Anchorage for more than 13 years, driving around the city looking for young prostitutes to kill.
The Frozen Ground concentrates on the story of detective Glenn Frothe (called Sargent Jack Halcombe in the film). About to retire, Halcombe believes he can solve the cases of the missing women with an eyewitness to Hansen's brutality: 17-year-old Cindy Paulson, who was taken from the streets by Hansen, but managed to escape and is now the one person who can put him in jail. Paulson, however, is not the best witness. Unstable, on drugs, and emotionally a wreck, she refuses to engage with Halcombe and the investigation and continues to work as a prostitute. In the meantime, another woman goes missing, and still lurking around the city is Hansen, who spots Paulson and arranges with a local thug to kidnap her.
Will Cindy tell all to Halcombe and help in the capture of Hansen? Or will Hansen get to Paulson first and add another murder to his list?
Films based on actual events tend to get dramaticised for the big screen, so it not really clear how much of this film is the actually true. Nicolas Cage plays Halcombe, the detective with children himself, who doesn't want to see another young woman killed. Vanessa Hudgens, in her first dramatic role in a film, is able enough to pull off Paulson, one minute speaking like the young woman she, and the next minute having a breakdown. It is John Cusak, however, who steals this movie. His Hansen is so cold, so brutal, so cunning, that we believe someone who looks like Cusak could be a serial killer. Furthermore, Cusak and the real Hansen look eerily alike. Hansen was a normal family guy living a secret life, a secret life so sordid and horrible, it is hard to believe a man like him existed.
For those curious, Robert Hansen was convicted in 1983 and is currently serving 461 years in prison. He is now 74-years-old, and will die in prison, because Alaska does not have the death penalty.