‘The Ice Road’ Review: Liam Neeson Steers Netflix’s Frozen ‘Wages of Fear’ Homage

15 min read

Liam Neeson’s unexpected yet remarkably durable second act as a grizzled action star isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and every one among his modest hits makes it that much easier to imagine the 69-year-old actor is going to be ready to keep this up for several years to return. His secret? Efficiency. If Neeson broke into the planet of mid-budget, low-rent beat-em-ups as a gangly brawler who was able to go anywhere and fight anyone so as to rescue his daughter, his subsequent contributions to the genre were tons more sedentary.

Movies like “Non-Stop” and “Run All Night” tried to cover that fact behind their titles — even “The Commuter” promised a greater degree of movement than it ultimately delivered — but Neeson’s newer efforts have stopped trying to disguise that skewed ratio between intensity and exertion. In “Cold Pursuit,” he sparked a war that allowed him to observe much of the carnage from afar. In “The Marksman,” he spent most of the movie’s action sequences lying on his stomach. That streak would appear to continue in Netflix’s “The Ice Road,” a frosty “Wages of Fear” riff during which Neeson plays a teamster whose entire job is to only sit in one place for nearly two straight days as he races an enormous rig down a brittle path which may crack open at any moment.

But if this mildly refreshing mid-June spectacle is as thin and easy because the terrain that it covers — forgettable during a way that creates you are feeling like it’s melting while you watch it, and never as slick an action vehicle as its premise might suggest — it still manages to supply a couple of mild twists before the journey is over. There’s a serious character reveal, a half-hearted takedown of corporate greed, and even a light-weight acknowledgment about racial stereotypes (a recurring motif in Neeson’s recent work, which may be read as a part of the Clint Eastwood archetype he’s inherited and/or a more personal sort of apology). But the foremost satisfying of the surprises this broadly predictable movie has future is additionally the simplest: Neeson eventually gets out of his truck (!) and kicks some ass.

Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh (a studio writer who’s previously stepped behind the camera for the likes of “Kill the Irishman” and “The Punisher”), “The Ice Road” doesn’t tire itself out by concealing its obvious debt to other, better movies; it’s only too easy to imagine Hensleigh walking into a boardroom at Netflix HQ, lighting a cigar, and rhetorically asking: “What if ‘Sorcerer,’ but cold?” while some executive slammed their fist on the cash button. Be that because it may, the film is at its best when sticking to familiar routes, and tends to lose momentum whenever it sacrifices in-the-moment suspense for a generalized sense of urgency. The story begins deep inside a foreign northern Canadian diamond mine, which is just about the last place on Earth you would like to be within the first scene of an action-thriller.

Holt McCallany is wearing a silly wig and a pair of glasses — that’s good. one among the miners observes that the methane sensor is malfunctioning — that’s bad. The extremely fake-looking explosion that rocks the mine when someone hits a methane pocket two seconds later is even worse. Eight miners are dead and 24 are trapped underground with only 30 hours of breathable oxygen between them. the ice truckers! Neeson plays Mike McCann, the type of character who says “I don’t have tons of tire left on my treads” with such weary conviction that it doesn’t really matter how flat the remainder of the script is. Mike hasn’t done tons of jobs over the last decade approximately because he’s spent most of that point taking care of his mechanic brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an Iraq War vet suffering from PTSD-related aphasia.

Mike is prepared to dump Gurty during a facility but almost ready enough to go away from him there. Either way, he could use some money, and with most of his fellow truckers scattered to the four winds during the off-season, local contractor Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) doesn’t have any choice but to rent the McCann brothers to drive one among the three color-coded 65,000 lb. big rigs which will haul equipment up to Manitoba. The second truck within the caravan is going to be steered by a twentysomething indigenous girl with a chip on her shoulder (the majorly charismatic Amber Midthunder as Tantoo), while the third is going to be handled by Jim himself. If anyone dies along the way, their cut of the six-figure payout is going to be split among the survivors, and therefore the company insists that an insurance guy named Varnay come along to stay score (he’s played by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter himself, Benjamin Walker).

It’s April, the sun is shining, and these guys got to get a minimum of one 30-ton wellhead up to the good White North. The first and most frustrating problem that Hensleigh encounters is that nobody within the caravan is carrying nitroglycerine or anything which may explode at the slightest bump. The ice roads bring truly spectacular scenery — the situation shooting may be a big plus whenever the vistas aren’t tainted by globs of bad CG — but watching people drive during a line just isn’t all that compelling. you recognize that a minimum of one among the trucks goes to fall flat the ice at some point, and it really couldn’t be easier to predict who will live to ascertain the closing credits (even if there’s some intrigue on how and why certain people meet their maker), so Hensleigh does his best to urge before the sport . None of what follows is as captivating because of the premise itself, or the ominous sight of pressure waves rippling under the surface of the ice before things go haywire, but Hensleigh remains ready to squeeze a couple of drops of fun out of things because it falls apart.

One harried scene forces Mike and his pals to outrace a crack within the ice sheet while two of their trucks are tethered together; another… well, a minimum of that scene where the trucks are tethered together is pretty cool. The dramatic tension isn’t quite as sturdy. albeit Mike was shown to be an aggressive racist (he isn’t), the speed at which he accuses Tantoo of sabotage would be hard to swallow during such an all-hands-on-deck situation; meanwhile, her distaste for the White race and what they’ve done to her hometown is usually played for laughs despite the very fact that she has more at stake during this mission than anyone. The “Of Mice and Men” dynamic Hensleigh is angling for between Mike and Gurty may need been an efficient choice during a movie that spared longer for it, but “The Ice Road” is so scared of collapsing under its own thin surface that it spreads out its weight as wide because it can. meaning frequent cut-aways to the trapped miners as they grow increasingly desperate, and also to a subplot involving the cartoonishly evil mining executives who refuse to let a couple of dead employees affect their bottom line.

Hensleigh can’t afford to heat up any real suspense without the entire movie falling apart under his feet, which is mighty unfortunate considering what proportion potential the ice roads have because of the setting for a heart-in-your-throat adventure. Tantoo explains that the trucks can’t go too fast or too slow because anything aside from a cheerful medium might disrupt the pressure, but “The Ice Road” doesn’t share a trucker’s discipline, and it accelerates and up and up until it bleeds into a special, more conventional action sub-genre altogether. Still, it begrudgingly must be admitted that the straightforward pleasures of the movie’s last half are satisfying enough to remind you why Neeson’s star has never shined brighter than it does in his twilight years, and why he’s probably got enough spare tires in his trunk to stay on trucking in forgettable, relatively old-school programmers like this one for an additional decade to return. After quite 100 minutes of janky computer graphics, watching this borderline septuagenarian beat the living shit out of some bad guys like it’s 2008 everywhere again looks like the foremost natural thing within the world.

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