In recent years we’ve seen Liam Neeson morph from dramatic actor to action star. He’s battled everything from human traffickers and Mexican cartels to hijackers and murderous drug dealers. His latest, “The Ice Road” sees him up against his most daunting adversary yet—a long stretch of frozen ocean.
Neeson is Mike, a grizzled big rig driver who cares for his Iraq war veteran brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas). Gurty is a master mechanic but his PTSD has made it difficult for the brothers to stay employment. When a diamond mine in Northern Canada collapses, they accept a job offer from Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) to be part of a convoy delivering lifesaving equipment to the remote mine location.
The brothers team with Goldenrod and Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a fearless young woman whose brother is trapped in the mine, to navigate three 65,000 pound vehicles over “ice roads,” frozen lakes, rivers and oceans to deliver life-saving equipment.
There’s more but I can’t describe the plot’s main thrust without a major spoiler. Suffice to say, there is a villain so dastardly all that’s missing is a giant moustache to twirl.
The drama in “The Ice Road” quickly melts away like ice before a fire, leaving behind a residue of clichés, long, drawn out action and fight scenes and dialogue borrowed from a hundred other, better action movies.
Director Jonathan Hensleigh, writer of the screenplays for “Jumanji,” “Armageddon” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” struggles to bring the popcorn thrills of his best-known work to this movie.
Even the death of one of the major players (NO SPOILERS HERE) is so abrupt and undramatic, it’s as if the actor had a doctor’s appointment and had to leave the set suddenly.
It’s too bad because there’s lots to work with. Start with Man-against-nature. Move along to a pantomime villain and throw in some of Neeson’s trademarked grimaces and growls and you could have an enjoyable b-movie but the hackneyed relationships and threadbare special effects sink the whole thing.
“The Ice Road” is a long (why did this have to be 103 minutes long?) winding road to nowhere; all build up and no pay off.