From the success of the ruthless first installment of Revenge (2008), Liam Neeson it has instituted a genre in its own right: its own. The veteran Irish actor, after a long and fruitful career, achieved in that ruthless series B of Luc Besson not only a sovereign blockbuster, but also gave a lurch to his career to vindicate himself as one of the few real props of the balances of that memorable genre of the “action movie” of the eighties and surroundings.
Now, when “one of Liam Neeson” is released, the public knows what to expect: an action film without excuses or subterfuges, between reasonably modest and relatively spectacular, with more or less visual style or violence, developed in Europe or the USA, the city or in the country, in the snow or in summer. The Ice Road, the story of truckers who must race against time a route from North Dakota to Manitoba to deliver a drill that will save the lives of miners, it is easy to fit into that scheme: the film written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, an old acquaintance of fans of the genre for their scripts Armageddon O Die Hard III, take the schema from The salary of fear and Cursed Charge while repeating motifs from the screenwriter’s two greatest hits (you know: drills, workers, and time trials) and adding interesting survival story notes to the Vertical Limit, a subgenre that by the way is not alien to Neeson (see the excellent White Hell).
Although the film betrays that concept in its second half, turning into a conventional conspiracy thriller, the two halves don’t get along all that badly and even report moments of reasonable intensity. On The Ice Road is, in its relative modesty of intentions and results, the vivid portrait of an oxymoron, of a somewhat absurd disappointment: is it possible that its director, Jonathan Hensleigh, is doing things right and wrong at the same time? In the same film we have scenes resolved in a clean and excellent way (the final chase by truck, that of the inevitable breaking of the ice under the wheels) and others of a practically amateur clumsiness (the death of one of the main characters tied to a winch, from which we will save the name).
In this precarious balance as a director Hensleigh moves, capable of giving one of lime and another of sand, showing off a good photograph in chiaroscuro of Tom Stern, one of Clint Eastwood’s regulars, and a handful of good and beautiful action scenes , as well as moments raised and captured with extreme clumsiness. In the end, what remains is an endearing, friendly and effective amusement, which benefits from the sad but hard emotionality of its star. And that’s just what we expected from Uncle Liam.