It all begins as many great action thrillers do, with a disaster.
This one takes place at a major mining site in northern Manitoba, Canada, when a methane explosion traps 25 men in a closet-size area with 30 hours of spare oxygen left.
Special equipment is needed to open a hole and get air in and the men out, but wouldn’t you know it, this state-of-the-art mining facility wasn’t prepared for an explosion, and they don’t have the big stuff on hand.
Naturally, it’s all down south somewhere, so they set about having it airlifted up.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute” cooler voices shout, “It’s too heavy, the planes can’t carry that kind of weight.”
So,“Hey, let’s truck it up.”
Now when this kind of thing happens, who do you call? John Wayne of course.
“The Duke is dead.”
“Clint Eastwood then.”
“Isn’t he dead?”
Finally, while we’re in the audience shouting, “For God’s sake, get Liam Neeson on the phone.”
(Of course, Liam was, in real life a truck driver, and amateur boxer.)
So they do. As luck would have it, Liam is available and driving big rigs in the neighborhood under the name of Mike McCann, and he has an Iraqi war veteran brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas) who is slightly mentally disturbed but cute and lovable.
Screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh has a great idea. Hire McCann and brother, who are deeply in debt and dream of having their own monster truck.
But where are they? Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) knows. (Goldenrod?)
So three trucks are loaded up with the necessary mammoth equipment, and off they go.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. How do we get there?” They’re given the directions “Ice Road? You mean that road the mining company plowed over that frozen river?”
“Over a river? Who wrote this thing?”
“It’s okay. It’s only April, and it’s hard as rock.”
No it ain’t.
It’s beginning to thaw, and Liam and Co. only have a few hours to get there before the men, who have begun to think about eating one another, are cashing out.
So Liam and Brother Gurty and, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, who’s the broad?”
Along for the ride is a Native New Mexican, maybe from the Bronx, named “Tantoo” (Amber Midthunder) who is coming along because her brother is one of the trapped miners.
Also, she knows how to drive one of these incredible trucks and, “Wait a minute, Wait a minute, is that a glock in her overnight bag?”
Yes it is, and she knows how to use it.
I confess. I’m Irish and a big fan of Liam, and I tend to forgive most everything he does, even that hand combat with a CGI wolf in “The Grey,” and Douglas MacArthur in a Korean War film, and I agreed to review this just to see Liam take a guy out with one punch.
Because we were hypnotized by the stunt doubles and CGI melting river, we failed to catch on to the political and deep business chicanery behind the scenes up there in Manitoba. But writer director Hensleigh will have the corporate baddies exposed in the finale.
“The Ice Road” is what it is, a full-out action Liam Neeson totally implausible thriller. Everybody showed up, blew on their hands and did their jobs. Liam fans will love it.
“The Ice Road” streams on Netflix.
J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.
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