FlixChatter Review: The Ice Road (2021)

There’s been a pretty long stretch of drought here in MN with this pro-longed heatwave and no rain that everyone’s lawn in our neighborhood is pretty much all yellow. So when I came across the poster of Ice Road when I launched Netflix, it sounds like a fun escapism – trust me, it’s not something I’d be keen on watching come November, ahah.

I feel like I can’t keep up with Liam Neeson‘s action career… he’s become ever so prolific ever since he did Taken in 2009 and became an unlikely action star. To be fair though, he does have a few dramas here and there, such as Ordinary Love, Made in Italy, but his primary bread and butter these days are B action movies! This time he plays an Irish-American guy from North Dakota (I’m chuckling even typing that!) named Mike McCann who lands a job as a big-rig driver following an explosion at diamond mine in Manitoba, Canada. Laurence Fishburne plays a trucking company boss Jim Goldenrod who’s tasked to organize the mission of delivering equipment to rescue the two dozen miners trapped miners, which is tricky given his drivers are off duty in the Spring time. He’s so desperate to find drivers he even bailed one of his former employee Tantoo (Amber Midthunder) whose half-brother is actually one of the miners.

IceRoad-Fishburne

Mike and his Aphasia-stricken, Iraq-war vet brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas) have been strapped for cash as Gurty’s condition made it hard to hold a job, so naturally he jumps at the chance to earn $50k in a short amount of time. But you don’t have to be an expert to know that the job of delivering 30-ton, 18-foot gas well-head and 300 feet of equipment through thin ice road of frozen lake in April is dangerous. Plus they only have less than 30 hours as the trapped miners are losing oxygen, fast!

Along for the ride with Mike + Gurty are Goldenrod, Tantoo and a mine insurance rep Varnay (Benjamin Walker) who’s riding with Tantoo. Well, the three Kenwood 18-wheelers are off… but of course it’s no spoiler to say not everyone is going to make it to Manitoba. What started out as dangerous becomes a deadly one. Hell breaks loose almost immediately, and I have to say I’m surprised how fast we lose one of the main characters! 

IceRoad-cast

Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, a prolific screenwriter (Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jumanji, Kill the Irishman, etc.) this is his third feature film which are all in the action/thriller genre. I haven’t seen the two movies he directed (Kill the Irishman, The Punisher) but I think this one isn’t exactly a strong narrative work as the dialog is run-of-the-mill with a predictable plot. The action scenes aren’t much to write about either, other than the pretty bad CGI of the thin ice breaking scenes. The more practical effects of trucks/people going under the ice is a bit more believable, and boy Neeson sure didn’t mind being put through the wringer for his action movies! The fact that the guy is 69 years old is impressive and he still looks amazingly fit for his age. 

This is very much a Liam Neeson movie who can still holds his own against his much younger cast members. I’m most impressed with Midthunder as Tantoo who’s got some great driving scenes as well as dramatic scenes. Given that she’s got the most to lose from the failed mission provides the emotional beats of the film, which offers a nice parallel to the brotherly relationship between Mike and Gurty. Walker is a pretty relentless character but he’s more irritating than annoying, plus he’s a racist bastard which perhaps is written as a mea culpa of sort for Neeson (if you recall he was in hot water for an allegedly racist remark he made in 2019). I’ve just seen Holt McCallany in another movie involving trucks (Wrath of Man), here he plays one of the miners who discovered the methane sensors were turned off before the mine exploded.

IceRoad-Neeson

Neeson’s action movies seem to involve modes of transport and he’s got to do plenty of truck driving on thin ice and through twisty mountain roads, as well as physical fight scenes. Asked by a talk show host why he doesn’t do more rom-coms in Hawaii or something like that, he said he likes the challenge. Undoubtedly he remains a watchable actor and has perfected the world-weary, B-movie hero persona down pat. I do wish he’d challenge his ACTING muscles more than his physical ones, as obviously he’s a capable and charismatic DRAMATIC actor.

Overall it’s a pretty entertaining movie with gorgeous Canadian wintry scenes shot by DP Tom Stern. Hensleigh managed to inject a few suspenseful moments on the ice despite predictable perils that await the drivers, especially the bridge-crossing scene and one character trying to close the bridge gate in time before being pinned to death by an 18-wheeler!! The action at times are so over the top, but then again, given it was released the same weekend as F9, that one still wins the most ludicrous-action-scenes award, ahah. If you’re a fan of Neeson-in-action, then The Ice Road would be a decent movie to pass the time.

2halfReels


Have you seen The Ice Road? I’d love to hear what you think!

Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2012 viewings

One of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. The movies they appear in aren’t always great, but the actors’ screen charisma and/or performances are memorable and you see their potential. This is kind of a variation of favorite performances list, such as what Keith is doing with his Top 5 of various lead and supporting performances (like this one). But for this post, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2012, or that I haven’t seen them act until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. Thus I’m excluding actors like Richard Armitage, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie and Jim Sturgess who all impressed me last year, but I have been familiar with them for some time.

In any case, based on my 2012 viewings (not exclusive to 2012 movies) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.

FiveObscureActors

[In alphabetical order]

Jason Clarke

JasonClarkeThe first time I saw this 43-year-old Australian actor was in Public Enemies as ‘Red’ Hamilton, John Dillinger’s partner in crime. I wasn’t impressed with the film but I sort of remembered Clarke’s role. He apparently was in the lead role of the now-defunct police procedural show The Chicago Code on FOX. I haven’t seen Lawless yet, but he played one of the three Bondurant brothers with Shia La Beouf and Tom Hardy. But he surely made his mark in Zero Dark Thirty. It’s not a big role but he’s certainly memorable. It could’ve easily been a simple thug or bully type of roles, but there’s a certain sensitivity in Clarke’s performance that somehow made him a sympathetic character. His flawless American accent certainly proves his versatility, so I hope to see more of him getting more prominent roles. I’m excited to see him in the upcoming William Monaghan’s directorial debut Mojave.

Mark Duplass

MarkDuplassI finally caught Safety Not Guaranteed and loved it. It was a surprisingly heartfelt comedy filled with quirky but likable characters. One of those characters is Kenneth, a man who placed an classified ad for a time-travel partner. I can’t help but being drawn to Ken despite (or because of) his eccentricities, just like Aubrey Plaza’s character did. He’s currently working on a couple of TV shows, I should check out The League, a semi-scripted comedy about a fantasy football league that my pal Ted told me about.

Apparently Duplass (who often collaborates with his brother Jay) is sort of a triple-threat, he has been writing, directing and producing a few indie projects and shorts, so now that he’s acting, I guess he’s more of a quadruple-threat. He also has a small part in Zero Dark Thirty which unsurprisingly offers a bit of comic relief. I could see him doing serious roles, too. He has a naturally affable presence but there’s a certain unpredictable quality about him that makes me think he could effectively play an antagonist.

Chris O’Dowd

ChrisODowdAs you probably already know, I adore The Sapphires. It’s my favorite movie at last year’s TCFF and I had a bit of a crush on him. Not a full-blown crush, just a smidgen, but I think he’s just so lovable and sweet in that role… a sensitive rebel with a big heart. I have yet to see Bridesmaids and no way in heck am I watching HBO’s Girls just to see him, so I hope this tall Irish actor gets busier in Hollywood.

I’m excited to see his two upcoming comedy dramas, one is called Hippie Hippie Shake with Cillian Murphy and a bunch of British actors, and the other called Calvary with Brendan Gleeson, directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges‘ Martin McDonaugh).
///

Tomer Sisley

TomerSisleyThis is perhaps the most obscure of the bunch as I don’t think his movie The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch was released here in the US. I quite enjoyed the movie, it was a pretty enjoyable action thriller and this German-born actor is fun to watch. He’s actually of Russian and Yemenite origin, but has been living in France since he was 9 so he speaks four languages: French, English, German and Hebrew, wow! He’s certainly easy on the eyes and has the athleticism to could pull off all the action stunts. Then I found out he was a stand-up comic as well. He’s probably quite well-known in France and he’s got a few French movies in the works, hopefully some Hollywood casting agent would notice him soon enough.
///

Benjamin Walker

BenWalkerYes, I was one of those few people who was entertained by Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. Walker is no Daniel Day Lewis but I thought he’s quite charismatic and has the talents and screen presence as a leading man. It’s not the first time he played a US president as he was cast in the Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Like Sisley, he’s also got a funny bone as he did his first performing experience at the Juilliard School in New York as a stand-up comedian. I could totally see him do comedy, he shows some of that in Vampire Hunter, I think he’d be awesome. I’m surprised he hasn’t been cast yet as Liam Neeson’s son in one of his action flicks, I mean this 6’3″ actor looks so much like him!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to his next film with one of my current crushes, Henry Cavill in The Great Wall.
 

Honorable Mention:

Oscar Isaac

OscarIsaacThough he only had a tiny role in Bourne Legacy, I quite like this Guatemala-born actor and I wish he had a bigger part. Heck, he’d even make a good leading man if the producers don’t mind a non-white actor in that role. I realized later on that he played Prince John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. He’s not only talented, but like Mark Strong, he’s also got one of those faces which enables him to play roles of various ethnic groups. Looks like he’s getting a lot of roles already, yay! He’s got at least four movies out later this year, including the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis with Carey Mulligan and Mojave with Jason Clarke. Looking forward to both of those!


Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

THIS JUST IN: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter First Trailer!

Here’s one of those movies with an idea so bizarre it’s bound to get you at least curious enough to check it out. One of America’s legendary presidents is a highly-trained vampire assassin?? What? What? When I first heard about it back in April when Rufus Sewell was cast as the lead vampire, I learned that the movie is based on a historical fiction of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, the same author of the equally wacky Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Relative newcomer Benjamin Walker who actually played yet another US president in the rock stage musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is playing Lincoln.

Behold the International Trailer (updated 2/15):


Here’s the full synopsis per Daily Blam!:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a re-imagining of the 16th President’s life that depicts him as an axe-throwing, highly accomplished killer of vampires — an obsession of his since those bloodsuckers supposedly took the life of his mother. Lincoln eventually learns that the vampires have fled to the southern states of the U.S. and are concocting a plan to conquer and enslave the entire country — this in turn leads to the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy, the latter of which the vampires are aligned with.

Directed by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and produced by Tim Burton, it’s a return to the vampire genre for Bekmambetov who made two vampire thrillers set in Moscow, Night Watch and Day Watch. The gothic atmosphere set by the poster is certainly very Burton-esque, and it’s likely to be full of brutal, slo-mo Matrix-style action sequencesmixed with 19th-century period set pieces. Well whether Timur does a good job with this remains to be seen, but one thing for sure, you probably never saw this bad ass, axe-throwing side of Lincoln before.

Here’s more info about the cast:

  • Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double) – Abraham Lincoln’s mentor
  • Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) – Will, Lincoln’s best friend
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgim VS The World) – Mary Todd, Abe Lincoln’s love interest and eventual wife
  • Andy Tudyk (Firefly) – Stephen A. Douglas, a strong but respected adversary of Lincoln within the Republican Party.

I can’t see most of the cast in this first trailer as there are just so much going on and the cuts are just too fast, but I guess this is more of a teaser to get us a glimpse of what to expect.

Updated 2/15: 20th Century Fox now has also released the Featurette, check it out below:



So folks, are you game to see this one in 3D come June 22?