여hile shrugging my way through Netflix’s production line B-movie The Ice Road, 난 궁금해, perhaps worried about, just how much sleep Liam Neeson, 세의 나이에 69, is getting these days. In the past 12 months alone he’s led two other all-guns-blazing action movies (as well as a firing-with-blanks drama), kicking 0ff a decade that was preceded by his most ubiquitous yet (in the 2010s he starred in a staggering 33 films). His action hero schtick, which became a reliable cash cow after Taken’s success in 2008, has become so repetitive that one imagines him just shuffling from one set to the other dragging his rifle, wearing the same costume, each role boringly interchangeable.
While The Ice Road might not be quite as cut-and-paste as some of the others (there’s less revenge-taking, skill-listing and name-taking than usual), it’s still familiar enough for it to feel like we’ve seen him do this exact thing before. The sight of a grizzled Neeson battling snowy extremes recalls both Joe Carnahan’s surprisingly soulful survival thriller The Grey and 2019’s darkly comic Cold Pursuit, films possessing a personality that this one sorely lacks. Neeson plays Mike (although his character is so devoid of anything remotely distinguishable that he might as well be called Man), an ice road driver who spots a chance to make a buck when a daring mission needs last-minute riggers. Along with his brother, Mike joins a small crew headed to save a group of miners trapped underground but the perilous nature of the journey means they might not make it home.
We’re informed at the start of the film that ice road drivers are tasked with an unimaginably stressful job, having to haul vehicles that weigh about 65,000lb over frozen lakes and oceans of ice less than 30in thick, a profession with a high mortality rate. It’s an ingenious setting for a thriller, the danger of death just a few cracks away, but the writer and director, Jonathan Hensleigh (whose writing credits range from Jumanji to Armageddon), isn’t able to wring quite enough tension out of it (bar less than handful of gasps), choosing instead to drown his film with a hackneyed plot under-stuffed with expired ingredients. Despite not being made directly for the streamer (it was acquired a year after production ended), it bears that drab 넷플릭스 flatness, looking every bit like a TV movie that premiered a couple of decades ago, right down to the laughably shoddy CGI, a surprisingly cheap entry on Neeson’s usually slicker résumé.
The unravelling conspiracy (because of course there’s a conspiracy) is as bland as the actors chosen to unravel it, with only fleeting glimpses of Laurence Fishburne and the David Fincher fave Holt McCallany to give Neeson company amongst the dull daytime TV day players. Hensleigh makes some early attempts to make this The Liam Neeson Film We Need Right Now with references to the opioid epidemic as well as the Indigenous battle over land but they soon fade and the film quickly becomes as rote as any old 80s actioner, the kind of trash that Dolph Lundgren would have starred in, a waste of Neeson’s talents. His lucrative career swerve often serves up the odd gem (there was fun to be had in Non-Stop and his performance in The Grey was quite remarkable) but it’s mostly stodge, the kind of films that offer him a solid stream of paycheques but give us very little in return.
He sleepwalks through The Ice Road. Audiences might be more inclined to simply sleep.