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Review: The Ice Road

Apparently surprising even him, Liam Neeson continues to crank out action thrillers as he heads into his 70s and the latest just hit Netflix this past weekend, The Ice Road.

Neeson stars as Mike McCann, a trucker who joins a dangerous mission to transport vital mining equipment from Winnipeg to a remote diamond mine in Manitoba that will require traversing deadly ice roads.  The mining company offers a hefty payment for each trucker and Mike is joined by his mentally disabled brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas) who is a savant of a mechanic, Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) who owns the trucking company running the mission, and Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a Cree woman whose brother is one of the trapped miners.  The group is also joined by Varnay (Benjamin Walker), who claims to be an actuary for the mining company.  It becomes clear fairly soon into the rescue mission that there is sabotage going on and it seems like someone doesn’t want the mission to succeed.  There was a movie called Sorcerer in 1977 directed by the great William Friedkin that The Ice Road shares some similarities to as well as the wonderfully ridiculous Patrick Swayze classic Black Dog but I kind of wish that the movie leaned more into either of those directions and I think I may have preferred the Sorcerer route.  Sorcerer didn’t have any villains besides the environment but it was still incredibly thrilling and tense and there are hints that The Ice Road could have dropped the sabotage/chase elements and still been a thrilling adventure.  Some of the best stuff in The Ice Road is either dealing with environmental dangers, like “pressure waves” in the ice road that creates undulations, or trying to get across a bridge where the weight of the truck is right at the limit of the weight it can handle.  There’s also lots of fun in the crew trying to MacGyver their way out of those situations.  The more Black Dog action elements are fine and there’s some really great stunt driving where these big rigs are essentially drifting around corners but the situation is already so dangerous that it’s kind of a hat on a hat.  The driving and environmental dangers also play more to Neeson’s current strengths as he can sit in the cab of the truck and still growl and be a badass but it’s less physically demanding.  In recent movies like Honest Thief and The Marksman, you can tell age is catching up to him as there’s significantly less action and fights than when he first became an unlikely action icon in Taken.

Neeson gives a solid Liam Neeson action performance and growls outlines like you would expect him to.  He also gets to some solid dramatic action, usually when interacting with his brother but also with Amber Midthunder.  Midthunder has the same energy she had in Legion where she gets to be a snarky badass.  Benjamin Walker is solid as the slimy mining employee who grows more and more hatable as the movie goes on as his true intentions become clearer.  Holt McCallany is solid as always as one of the guys trapped in the mine but he doesn’t really have that much to do and the mine stuff feels a little extraneous except for a revelation that reveals why the rescue mission is getting targetted for sabotage but that could have been revealed some other way and you probably could have cut all the trapped miner stuff and not really have it affect anything.

The Ice Road is a solid thriller and one of the better recent Liam Neeson action movies released recently, definitely better than Honest Thief or The Marksman although it perhaps could have been stronger if it focused completely on the danger of the mission and dropped the corporate sabotage/villains or just go completely crazy Black Dog style and have machine gun battles between big rigs or something.  If you’re scrolling through Netflix and looking for something to watch, The Ice Road is worth checking out but definitely consider checking out Black Dog and/or Sorcerer as well.

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