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The Ice Road | Review

The Ice Road is a baffling action picture, and a terrible vehicle for Liam Neeson to star in.

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*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.

The Ice Road': First Look At Liam Neeson In Action Rescue Movie – Deadline

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.

Liam Neeson's Next Big Action Movie Is Going Straight To Netflix

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.

Liam Neeson & 'The Ice Road' Cast Braved Extreme Temps for the Action  Thriller | Entertainment | insidenova.com

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).

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Netflix | Night Teeth – Official Trailer

A college student moonlighting as a chauffeur picks up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. But when he uncovers their bloodthirsty intentions – and their dangerous, shadowy underworld – he must fight to stay alive.



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Genre:

Action, Crime, Drama

Release Date:

October 20, 2021

Director:

Adam Randall

Cast:

Sydney Sweeney, Megan Fox, Alexander Ludwig

Plot Summary:

A college student moonlighting as a chauffeur picks up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. But when he uncovers their bloodthirsty intentions – and their dangerous, shadowy underworld – he must fight to stay alive.

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Matrix: Resurrections | Official Trailer – COMING THURSDAY

The Matrix: Resurrections is an upcoming American science fiction action film produced, co-written, and directed by Lana Wachowski. It is the fourth installment in The Matrix film series.



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Genre:

Action, Sci-fi

Release Date:

December 22, 2021

Director:

Lana Wachowski

Cast:

Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris

Plot Summary:

The Matrix: Resurrections is an upcoming American science fiction action film produced, co-written, and directed by Lana Wachowski. It is the fourth installment in The Matrix film series.

FULL TRAILER COMING THIS THURSDAY!

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

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It’s crazy to think that Marvel Studios went the whole of 2020 in complete silence with no new releases and now Marvel are back in 2021 with a huge bang. Three TV shows in, part way through another, and now we’ve reached film number two of the four big screen superhero shenanigans Marvel have in store for us in 2021. Even though Avengers: Endgame was the big conclusion for Marvel in 2019, if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is anything to go by, they show no sign of stopping.



Shang-Chi introduces the first Asian superhero to the big screen and actor Simu Liu absolutely smashes it as the character. It’s like Liu was born to play this role. Immediately it’s clear as day that Liu is the perfect person to play the role and within his first few scenes, he slots into the Marvel universe so well and has so much personality to him.

When we first meet Liu, he’s known as Shaun and working as a valet parking guy at a fancy hotel with his friend Katy (Awkwafina). The two are enjoying their ordinary lives in San Francisco when suddenly Shaun is ambushed on the bus by a bunch of men in an attempt to steal the pendant he wears around his neck. What follows is a dazzling spectacle as Shaun fights off the bad guys. Shang-Chi boasts some of the MCU’s most impressive action sequences to date as the camera flies around the bus in an electrifying manner, highlighting the excellent fight choreography.

Shaun, who reveals to Katy that his real name is actually Shang-Chi must confront his past as he travels to Macau in search of his sister Xialing where he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious organisation known as the Ten Rings. He must face his father Wenwu, played by Hong Kong actor Tony Leung, who possesses the legendary Ten Rings.

Set after the blip and the events of Infinity War and Endgame, the film sees director Destin Daniel Cretton inject a whole lot of freshness and originality into the MCU in what’s one of the best Marvel solo films to date and does a fantastic job of introducing the new character of Shang-Chi to audiences. There are of course some links and ties to the other films, especially since this isn’t the first time we’ve come across the Ten Rings. Fans will recognise the name and remember the organisation from the Iron Man films. However, Shang-Chi largely stands on its own and it doesn’t rely on the rest of the MCU to make it a really good film. It does that all by itself.



Shang-Chi feels very different to the usual Marvel fare- at least in the first half of the film. The action scenes are all incredible and so superbly choreographed. There’s one scene in particular that takes place on scaffolding hundreds of feet above Macau that’s absolutely thrilling to watch and is one of the best action scenes of all the Marvel films. As well as impressive action, the film’s very funny too. Awkwafina’s Katy provides a lot of the comic relief and the chemistry between her and Liu is great making their two characters stand out.

But beyond the action and the humour there are interesting and compelling characters in Shang-Chi. There’s a central struggle between Shang-Chi and his father Wenwu and even though the MCU has had its fair share of daddy issues from Thanos to Ego the Living Planet and Howard Stark, the relationship between Shang-Chi and Wenwu feels gripping and unlike some of the other father-son struggles the MCU has given us.

However, where the film falls down is the final act. It slips away from the fun and entertaining antics we saw in the first hour in favour of a generic, grey, dull CGI fest. Shang-Chi would be top-tier Marvel if it managed to stick the landing and get the ending right but unfortunately the final act is a bit of a bloated mess. It’s not awful and the film as a whole is still in Marvel’s top ten and but it loses so much of what made it different and fun to watch when it resorts back to the basic superhero film climax with a load of CGI taking place in a dull, grey location.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a really enjoyable superhero showdown that does a great job of introducing a new hero into the MCU despite being brought down by a flat and slightly dull finale. Simu Liu shines in the role leaving you itching to see more of him with post credits scenes (there are two) teasing that this certainly won’t be the only time we see Shang-Chi. Marvel once again prove they know exactly how to make a great comic book film.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases only in cinemas on September 3rd.

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