The Ice Road (2021)
"The Ice Road" stars Liam Neeson, Benjamin Walker, Amber Midthunder, Marcus Thomas, Holt McCallany, Martin Sensmeier, Matt McCoy, Matt Salinger, and Laurence Fishburne. Released on Netflix on June 25, 2021, the film is about an ice driver who leads a rescue mission to save the lives of trapped miners.
The film was written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, who also directed "The Punisher", "Welcome to the Jungle", and "Kill the Irishman". You got a life-threatening situation that seems impossible to handle? You get the right man for the job, or should I say the right two men? Last weekend not only had one film that puts the pedal to the medal but two films as Netflix unites Liam Neeson and Laurence Fishburne against the icy road of death. I hope you got your winter clothes on for this thrill ride. This was one of the films you may not realize were coming out until they appeared on the streaming service. Fortunately, I managed to stumble upon it when I saw its trailer. It looked like every other standard action thriller involving a rescue mission, but does that mean it's worth watching? Let's find out.
The story centers on Mike McCann (Neeson), a former trucker who, along with his brother Gurty (Thomas), applied to work as ice road truckers. They're hired by another ice road trucker Jim Goldenrod (Fishburne) to help him complete a dangerous rescue mission to save 26 miners trapped in a Manitoba mine due to an explosion. Along with a young woman named Tantoo (Midthunder) and actuary Tom Varnay (Walker), the group must deliver three wellheads through the ice road to rescue the miners before it's too late. There's no doubt that Liam Neeson continues to be the main draw as an action star recently. Whenever there's a thriller that involves him punching or shooting down bad guys, many people, including me, will wind up checking it out regardless of its quality. "The Ice Road" is certainly no different. Even though some of Neeson's recent action films were understandably flawed, such as last year's "Honest Thief", I managed to find some enjoyment in them primarily due to the actor's presence. So it's no surprise to see Neeson in top form once again in this film. His acting was fine for the most part, and his stunt work was suitable enough to entertain some of his audience. Unfortunately, his appearance could not get the film to safer territory unscathed. "The Ice Road" is one of the lesser-known, low-budget films you would find in the $2 bin at your local video store, and that video store is Netflix. Ranging from its forgettable plot to the characters who were as thin as ice, the film immediately puts its potential in the deep freeze. Admittedly, the story had an interesting concept which involves a group of ice truck drivers driving through an ice road. From what I saw, ice roads tend to be the quickest yet most dangerous routes for the drivers to take during their jobs due to their conditions. This could've worked well as a nerve-wracking and limited survival thriller that pits man against nature. However, after a promising first act, it squandered that intriguing idea in favor of a cheap and formulaic storyline that the other thrillers have done before. While some of the sequences had their share of tension, Jonathan Hensleigh couldn't take advantage of those opportunities to make them stand out in terms of his direction. Hensleigh's script was also filled with some dumb-downed cliches and specific character moments that were more corny and mundane than sentimental. Even its supporting actors couldn't make things even better, especially Laurence Fishburne as Jim Goldenrod. His role was a big disappointment in my eyes despite his performance being somewhat okay. Benjamin Walker and Amber Midthunder were also pretty mediocre in their roles as Varnay and Tantoo, respectively. The CGI effects in this film resembled the visuals from the cheap direct-to-video action movies: ugly, poorly-rendered, and unimaginative. I can understand that the film was made with a lower budget, but jeez. It's like they put no effort in making the VFX somewhat convincing. You don't believe me? Watch the opening scene and try to prove me wrong. Then there's the editing, most notably the transitions between scenes. They were awkwardly abrupt and didn't give the film enough time to deliver some depth in its storytelling.
Overall, "The Ice Road" is a dull by-the-numbers thriller that couldn't recover from the cold weather. Liam Neeson has once again proven himself to be a respectable draw for his followers. Sadly, his presence failed to provide any enjoyment factor in the film for those outside of his fanbase. Due to its mediocre supporting cast, formulaic screenplay, unattractive visuals, and Hensleigh's poor direction, this action thriller is an icy dud. Sorry, Mr. Neeson, you're a great actor, but let's admit it, you deserve a better movie with warmer temperatures. If you enjoy Neeson in his action roles, then you should be fine watching it once on Netflix.
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