The Ice Road | Review
The Ice Road is a baffling action picture, and a terrible vehicle for Liam Neeson to star in.
*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for The Ice Road*
Liam Neeson’s gruff masculine performance is back (with a vengeance, yet again, because that’s the only thing he’s been doing for over ten years now) in The Ice Road, one of the most abysmal pictures you’ll see all year. Abysmal, how? It’s Liam Neeson driving a Kenworth truck on thin ice, as he and a crew of fellow truckers must bring a Wellhead to the Katka mine in Manitoba, in which a group of 26 miners are trapped due to a methane explosion; how can that be bad? Well, for starters, it starts early-on when Mark McCann (Neeson) quickly realizes that the Katka Mine company wants the crew to fail by sending an actuary (Benjamin Walker) to sabotage the mission and make sure they do not make it to the mine, as they are covering up a potential political scandal. This is where The Ice Road goes to shit, for lack of better words, and never wants to keep it simple instead.
Bad CGI aside, this could’ve been a rather enjoyable “race against time” movie, commanded by Neeson, in which the task-at-hand would be extremely difficult due to ever-changing weather and an unreliable ice surface. We’d obviously anticipate a positive outcome and success in the mission, even if some lives are lost, and the crew escapes the unthinkable multiple times. That’s not what happens, as director Jonathan Hensleigh wants to throw in a badly shoved-in commentary on the evils of being a “business as usual” capitalist, in which the millionaires sit at an office desk do not care about workplace safety if it equals more money for them. That’s fine if you want to paint the CEO of Katka as a spineless man who only cares about filling his pockets that’ll dictate his “tough decisions,” instead of making him look like an assassin (?) who’ll do anything to make sure the crew never arrives with the Wellheads? Why? What’s his endgame? To cover up the fact that he ordered the mining crew to cut off the methane sensors so the mine wouldn’t shut down? That’s it? You literally hire a killer to cover up your own mess to constantly fill your pocket and stage a tragedy? Who on earth would want to do something as baffling as this?
So instead of having this fairly standard “race against time” thriller I’ve mentioned in the last paragraph, we’re stuck inside a political action film/revenge flick we don’t want a part of. The trailers do not advertise The Ice Road as a political action film. Liam Neeson will have to exact revenge on the capitalists who want the crew dead to stage a tragedy, but rather a “race against time” thriller that I’ve mentioned for a third time now! Of course, there is the “race against time,” since McCann et al. has 30 hours to make it to the mine before the crew deprive themselves of oxygen and die, but the “race against time” the trailers promote is the one of unpredictable climate, thin ice and cracks that make for a perilous journey, not Benjamin Walker trying to kill everyone for reasons that make absolutely no sense! My God, imagine if you’re embroiled in a scandal that could end your career, and now you have the opportunity to become the hero of the day that has saved the Katka miners from asphyxiation! People will likely turn a blind eye to potential scandal if it means trying to do right by the mistakes you’ve made in the past instead of turning into a complete psychopath hellbent on making sure nobody lives to tell the tale of Katka’s malpractices. Of course, you turned out to be a heartless person, but at least you did the right thing for once and realized how egotistical you were by leaving the men to die and not caring about their safety.
The Ice Road doesn’t care about any of that, nor the moral aspects of leaving the miners to die. Once it’s revealed that Benjamin Walker’s Varnay sabotaged the mission and caused the death of Laurence Fishburne’s Goldenrod, this is where the film quickly fizzles out and never recovers afterward. Before that, it was an easygoing (albeit uninspired) truck action picture that only set itself up as being an environmental “race against time” picture. The environmental challenge is still there, with some of the worst CGI effects I’ve seen all year, but it takes a backseat and prefers to tell a story nobody cares about and has any interest in seeing. It’s completely baffling to see to what extent will Varnay go to make sure they don’t make it to the mine. His demeanor is particularly God-like, surviving the most unrealistic car crash imaginable, blowing up ice with dynamite in more ways than one, and ordering James Bond-lite henchman to kill McCann and his brother, Gurty (Marcus Thomas), without the use of weapons to make it look like an accident. The cherry on top is the final fight between Varnay and Mark—with a clear stunt double replacing Liam Neeson during close-up moments with soulless cinematography from Tom Stern, a usually decent director of photography.
There’s no creativity in any of the film’s action sequences. They’re either horrendously shot to the point where it looks like a bad SyFy original or filled with visual effects likely made for 5¢ that renders every scene unintentionally hilarious. Varnay’s death is hilarious here, with the fakest waves you’ve ever seen since Sharknado. Since there’s no creativity to render any of the action scenes competent or palatable to watch, none of the performances particularly hit either. The only one that seems to care is Laurence Fishburne, who magnifies the screen by briefly starring in the film. Neeson phones in his usual macho schtick, adding not much else to his “this time, it’s personal” tenure he’s been doing in his sleep since he starred in the dreadful Taken trilogy. Neeson only seems to shine in action films when they’re directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, real action movies with a soul, compelling aesthetics, and competently shot action sequences.
Serra is an old-school filmmaker who knows exactly the kind of acting Neeson excels at, reviving his career à la Charles Bronson Cannon Group partnership. Jonathan Hensleigh, in the case of The Ice Road, only knows that Neeson will do a half-competent job as roles like these are now an easy paycheck for him. Neeson should absolutely do more than an easy paycheck and stick to more nuanced, dramatic performances instead of doing “gruff” Taken-esque action films all the time. They’re no fun anymore, for the audience and him as well. It’s finally time to move on.
The Ice Road is now streaming on Netflix (U.S. Only) and available to rent or buy on video-on-demand (Canada/International).
Five Reasons To Love ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’
Back in 2014, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened into theaters with a mixed reception from critics and audiences and has been deemed as the least desirable of the Spidey movies. In the film, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) must face off against another villain who has been given the name Electro. Moreover, our brave hero uncovers some bizarre mysteries surrounding his parents.
Many fans of the series view the film as an overcrowded mess, but I think it might be the most entertaining of all the Spidey films, until No Way Home arrived, and here are five reasons why that remains true.
First and foremost, Garfield is always a delight to have in the Spidey outfit. His charisma and witty banter is almost what makes the film truly great. I have always said that he was the best Spider-Man and this movie proves it with his ability to elevate any scene from dull slog to a comedic venture.
Spidey, in this particular movie, embodies the hero in the original comics with his incessant need to make a fast-talking quip to one of his enemies. There is nothing better than a comic-book character sticking true to his essence and spirit of its source material.
Despite what many people say about the villains, Jamie Foxx as the supercharged baddie Electro proves to be a formidable opponent for the web-head, with his omnipotent powers and overly-powered nature. More than that, Max Dillon is depicted as a quiet, shy loner who is invisible to other people. He is essentially a nobody, until he falls into a vat of electrically-charged eels and becomes the sinister villain Electro.
To better understand a villain, you must understand their plight and Electro’s plight is that of a rags-to-riches success story and the visual effects are certainly something to marvel at.
This article wouldn’t be complete if I decided not to talk about the exhilarating action that embodied the film. Whether we see Spidey chasing down a truck with Oscorp’s product or a massive fight inside a grid that seems like a colossal feat for any Marvel film, the film can take a lot of pride in its action sequences.
One can also never forget the massive and iconic battle sequence between Electro and Spidey in Time Square that seems impossible to be made.
While he remains a secondary villain, Dane Dehaan’s Green Goblin is still noteworthy. Dehaan portrays Harry Osborne who is left with his dead father Norman’s life work and stumbles upon a Goblin serum that enhances his speed, strength, and intelligence.
His little spat with Spider-Man is certainly befitting for the dark, moody tone of the film and entertaining for plenty of comic fans with zippy action and certified intensity. In the end, he is also responsible for the death of Spidey’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy.
Gwen Stacy Death
Speaking of Gwen Stacy, this is the only Spidey film that features his love interest dying. As he battles the Green Goblin, Spidey attempts to hold on to Stacy, literally, by a thread in the clocktower. However, when the thread snaps, Spidey is able to snag her in mid-air but the whiplash of the fall snaps her neck, killing her.
What might be the saddest moment in any Spider-Man film, was brought to life in this extraordinary scene that silenced an entire generation of Spider-Man fans.
Anthony Hopkins to Lead Peacock Gladiator Drama ‘Those About to Die’
Peacock is one of the streamers that has yet to break through in terms of their original content getting recognized for awards contention. One such series that might change that fate for the streaming service is Those About to Die and it’s starting to build out its cast. According to Variety, 2-time Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, The Father) is the first to join the drama series which comes from Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow). Saving Private Ryan screenwriter Robert Rodat will script the series.
Hopkins will play the character known as Emperor Vespasian in the series which is set in the world of gladiatorial battle. It will be an ensemble drama following many different Roman characters that will set forth for violent affairs in the arena among other complexities such as political power and corruption so expect a starry cast for this Peacock drama. Hopkins’ character is described as “despised by the Patricians jockeying for position in the Empire and looking to supplant his heirs to the throne the first chance they get. Vespasian became the Roman emperor after a ten-year civil war. We expect to get more casting news soon as the show will begin filming in Rome in March.
Anthony Hopkins is coming off a terrific performance in James Gray’s Armageddon Time in 2022 after winning his second Academy Award for his role in The Father the year prior. He’ll next voice a character in Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon for Netflix and also will star in British drama One Life alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Jonathan Pryce. Emmerich is coming off directing the sci-fi disaster film, Moonfall in 2022.
‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Adds Oscar-Nominee William H. Macy
The Planet of the Apes trilogy headlined by Andy Serkis from the 2010s can be argued as one of the best trilogies of all-time. The technological advances made from motion capture helped actors completely transform into the apes with their interactions with human characters making the story rawer and more emotional. Now, 20th Century Studios will jump back into the world of apes with their latest, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. Deadline reports that William H. Macy (Shameless, Fargo) will round out the cast for the newest chapter of the franchise.
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes takes place many years after the conclusion of War for the Planet of the Apes being led by an entirely new cast that includes Owen Teague, Freya Allan and Peter Macon. Details are currently unknown on whether Macy will be playing a human character or an ape. The film series has grossed almost $2 billion dollars for the studio so it’s no surprise that they’re aiming to make more Apes fims.
Macy is coming off his biggest role ever in Showtime’s series, Shameless for which he played Frank Gallagher and was nominated for 6 Emmy Awards for his performance over 11 seasons. Macy is also a former Oscar-nominee for his lead role in the Coen Brothers classic, Fargo. Since then, he’s amassed tons of parts including most recently in Hulu’s The Dropout and a guest spot on the ABC sitcom, The Conners. Macy will next appear in the film, Maybe I Do with Emma Roberts, Diane Keaton, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon.
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