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.

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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! 

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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.

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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.

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

FlixChatter Review: Wrath Of Man (2021)

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The reason I was curious to see a screener of this is for the Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham reunion, which is their fourth since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Revolver. I haven’t seen that last one, and I barely remember the first two, but I like Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, so I was expecting a fun action thriller.

Well, to be sure, Wrath of Man lives up to its title in that it’s a hyper-violent revenge thriller. Hell hath no fury like Statham scorned, and though he appears cool as a cucumber, there’s a simmering rage beneath this mysterious tough guy named Patrick Hill, nicknamed H. The guy who calls him ‘H’ also goes by a nickname, Bullet (Holt McCallany), his new co-worker at Fortico Security, an armored truck company where H just starts working at. I won’t delve into the plot as it’s a run-of-the-mill revenge story you’ve seen done loads of time before.

Since I skipped Revolver, this is the first Guy Ritchie flick set in the US, Los Angeles to be exact. At the beginning of the film, we see a brutal cash truck robbery that turns deadly. It’s not clear just who’s who in this scenario, and the details begin to slowly unfold via intermittent flashback mode that also explains H’s backstory. It was engaging enough at first and I was curious to see just who the heck H is and the connection to the cash truck robbery. I have to say though, the ominous music by Christopher Benstead is aggravating and makes the movie seem way more somber than it needs to be. Overall, the script also takes things too seriously that it takes the fun out of it. In fact, there’s a serious lack of sense of humor that I often associate with Ritchie’s action flicks. In fact, my husband commented even early on that it doesn’t feel like a Guy Ritchie’s movie, even though he’s credited as one of the writers along with Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson.

I remember halfway through the movie, my mind wander to a hilarious scene in SPY where Statham was poking fun at himself that he’s such a f***ing tough guy that he’s impossible to kill. I miss his sarcastic sense of humor here as some of the supposedly funny banters here just falls flat. Perhaps I was too busy scratching my head as to the point of Josh Hartnett’s character. To say his character is underwritten is a huge understatement, it’s just so pointless. Other familiar faces like Jeffrey Donovan and Eddie Marsan are also pretty much wasted here. As for Scott Eastwood, honestly I just don’t think he’s a strong actor who’s neither exciting nor menacing. SPOILER ALERT: I kind of laugh when I realize he’s the main villain here, I just don’t believe him as a sly guy able to be the last man standing amongst his rag tag crew. Let’s just say, Scott is nowhere near as magnetic as his dad, and I feel like this flick could truly benefit from an actor who can believably go toe to toe with Statham.

At nearly two hours long, the movie also moves along at a sluggish pace while the lead actor seems to be sleep-walking for a good part of the movie. I wish it were at least a half an hour shorter as it overstays its welcome midway through. The plot is simple but yet it feels convoluted, filled with extraneous characters that barely register nor add any meaningful value to the story. It’s also an extremely macho movie where women barely has a place in it–the only time a woman is present, she calls H a very nasty British curse word that starts with a ‘c’ and I kind of think he deserves it. The shoot-em-up at the end is perhaps the only thrilling part of the movie, but that’s because the rest is so grim and lethargic. The action isn’t worth writing about as Statham is pretty much in pensive mode the entire movie. I mean, that’s NOT why we see a Jason Statham movie. The guy is at his best when he’s in full fighting mode. Still, the movie is bloody and hyper-violent, but one that grows more predictable as the movie progresses.

Apparently Wrath of Man is an English-language remake of the 2004 French thriller Le Convoyeur (literally translates to Cash Truck) starring Jean Dujardin. I wish Hollywood would stop making European remakes! I heard Another Round is going to be remade with Leo DiCaprio in place of Mads Mikkelsen, I mean WHY??!! This movie adds nothing new to the action thriller genre and overall is a complete waste of time. I like Statham generally but he’s just so boring here. If you’re a fan of his, just re-watch The Transporter (still my fave action movie with him as the lead). Heck, even Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is still far more watchable than this turd.

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Have you seen Wrath Of Man? I’d love to hear what you think!