The Ice Road

Release: Sunday, June 25, 2021 (Netflix)

👀 Netflix

Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh

Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring: Liam Neeson; Laurence Fishburne; Marcus Thomas; Amber Midthunder; Benjamin Walker

 

**/*****

Though Liam Neeson’s latest thriller The Ice Road may be out of season for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it lies smack in the middle of a prolific run the 69-year-old Irish actor has been enjoying the last decade-plus, marking one of three movies he will star in this year alone. Presumably it will also be the worst.

Written and directed by Jumanji (1995) and Armageddon (1998) scribe Jonathan Hensleigh, The Ice Road just may represent the nadir of Neeson’s post-Taken routine. Action titles such as Non-Stop (2014), Run All Night (2015), The Commuter (2018) and indeed the Taken sequels have all coasted on the goodwill of a built-in audience but few as shamelessly as The Ice Road, a bare-minimum effort with original ideas as commonplace as service stations out on the Canadian Prairies. Compounding the problem is some really questionable acting from supporting parts and a villain who becomes the Terminator in ways more comical than compelling.

Neeson blends into the environment just fine but his Mike McCann, a North Dakotan big rig driver, is nothing you’ll remember when all is said and done. Recently fired from his job having stood up for his PTSD-suffering brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), he joins a highly dangerous mission to deliver crucial equipment from Winnipeg to a mine in Northern Manitoba that has collapsed after a methane explosion. The 20+ souls trapped inside are relying on this last-ditch effort before they run out of oxygen. Time is of the essence but the trek to get there is paved with hazards, many natural and others man-made.

Good old-fashioned subterfuge at the corporate level is the cliched dramatic destination to which the increasingly apathetic viewer is pulled. This is less an action thriller as it is a conspiracy snoozer involving blue-collar truckers and white-collar snakes (Benjamin Walker’s characterization as a risk assessor belies his apparent immortality). At the Katka mine, company suits (Matt McCoy and Bradley Sawatzky, both pretty bad at acting on evidence of this movie) attempt damage control through an omniscience that becomes increasingly cartoonish. 

The best stretch of The Ice Road is its first half, as we are pulled into an extreme environment that offers entertaining man-vs-nature conflict not seen in a Neeson flick since 2011’s The Grey. The physical and technical challenges are effectively communicated as the crew — Mike, Gurty, a Winnipeg trucker named Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) and the hot-headed Tantoo (Amber Midthunder) — battle variable ice conditions and all sorts of nuances the layperson would never think about. Apparently dashboard bobbleheads are more than purely decorative. However, as environmental factors take a backseat to the human treachery lying underneath, The Ice Road sacrifices its blue collar identity for woefully generic melodrama. None of it written or performed particularly convincingly. 

While it is refreshing to see Neeson take on a character who is not endowed with a mythical set of skills, one is left wishing that the guy could have at least been endowed with better lines and quite frankly, a better film overall. 

“I do not believe in chance. When I see three wellheads, three drivers, three trucks, I do not see coincidence. I see providence. I see purpose.”

Moral of the Story: Pushes the line, for me personally, in terms of what a fan should be willing to accept at a base-line level of entertainment when it comes to these kinds of slight action-thrillers. Goodwill isn’t in infinite supply. The above review may be harsh, largely a reflection of frustration over how I entered the film with low expectations and not having even those met. There’s nothing sinfully bad about it, but all added up The Ice Road is just too lazy to recommend when there are so many other, (even if slightly) better Neeson options. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 109 mins.

Check out the “slick” Official Trailer from Netflix here! 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.slashfilm.com 

14 Comments

    1. One of the more glaring issues I had was the acting from supporting parts, the guys who played the evil corporate big shots were. . . wow. To me that made a significant difference between this and, say, Run All Night. Joel Kinneman doesn’t exactly have range but man, this was at times desperate. I can’t even really vouch for Neeson on this one. He’s pretty forgettable.

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  1. I’m sure to get around to this eventually, but the silliness of his other recent film The Honest Thief has soured me on him for awhile. Mind, he knows how to milk the success of that Taken film.

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    1. Oh absolutely. And The Ice Road is proof of how much he is milking it! I haven’t seen Honest Thief but I recall your review. This movie has more issues I think. Particularly the supporting actors, wow. It was like first takes were used and that was it. Cut. Print. Lame.

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  2. I recognized it as a bad film about 10 minutes in, but what is it about the aura of Neeson? Like Bruce Willis, he’s doing his best to rake in the $ while it lasts. There were parts I didn’t mind. The whole jackniving/sinking/ diesels on the road was entertaining. I did think the minor touch of putting wobble heads on the dash was clever. Makes me want to get one of Bryce Harper and glue him to my dashboard. 😉

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    1. On evidence of the last couple of reviews I have read over at Keith and the Movies, I would venture a guess that Neeson is probably doing better in terms of quality than Willis, but sheesh. You’re right. There’s something still compelling about Neeson in all these stock-standard stories, but here my enthusiasm was crushed. I enjoyed the same elements as you — I really dug the first half where we get to see a way of life not very often portrayed in mainstream movies. I liked how Neeson takes on a character who isn’t epic.

      I keep forgetting you’re a Phillies fan! (Although it makes sense — aren’t the Arizona Diamondbacks on a real skid right now?)

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  3. Agree it’s not a great film but Liam does have a certain gravitas he brings to every role that raises the entertainment level of the picture. A lesser actor would leave nothing to recommend in this.

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    1. I agree that Liam Neeson is the best thing about it. But when there are other, better options out there, it’s a tough sell. I am not even convinced Neeson is that good in this one either. It’s a . . . serviceable role, but nothing memorable.

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    1. Thanks very much. I agree. It’s another link in the chain and nothing more. I might say that about Run All Night and Non-Stop but those movies, at the very least, have the benefit of time. They came first.

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    1. It’s funny. Every one of my Neeson reviews dating back to like, 2014, say the same thing. But I feel more strongly with this one about how we are really being taken for fools here with the sheer lack of imagination in the story. Neeson can be really good. But when the story is crap it brings him down as well IMO

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