James Bartlett sees Liam Neeson slip into top gear in The Ice Road, which is available on Netflix.
Ballymena-born Liam Neeson never seems to stop working.
Despite his many claims about being close to retiring (or at least giving up the hard-knuckle movies that have made him a household name), Neeson, who just celebrated his 69th birthday, has nearly 140 movie credits according to IMDB.
His latest is the cool (in almost every sense of the word) actioner The Ice Road, and as the title suggests, it’s set in the crazily dangerous but exciting world of ice road truckers.
They’re juggernaut jockeys who, not happy with driving endless miles across the country to keep us anonymously supplied with everything from groceries to fork lifts, will also accept assignments to drive along the eponymous roads that are hewn out of temporarily-frozen winter rivers, lakes and even parts of the ocean.
Many of you might be thinking of the reality television series, or perhaps the much-celebrated 1953 nail-biter Wages of Fear (and its enjoyable jungle-set 1977 remake, Sorcerer), and if so, you’ll be happy spending your time with Neeson and Co.
He plays Mike, a driver who, along with his ace mechanic brother, the veteran/PTSD-affected Gurty (Marcus Thomas), desperately accepts a gig from Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne).
With dozens of miners trapped underground in a Canadian silver mine, the race is on to get the equipment there to save their lives, and Neeson joins Goldenrod and feisty young Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a Native American whose brother is one of the miners-in-peril.
Also along for the ride is Varnay (Benjamin Walker), the inevitable company man who is there to keep an eye on things, and make sure they ride to the rescue – or is he?
Carrying identical loads since it’s not expected they’ll all make it, the three huge juggernauts set out; but can they avoid the thin ice and get there in time?
Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, who also wrote Die Hard with a Vengeance, Armageddon, The Punisher (2004) and Kill the Irishman, this is often breathless and impressive, even if the dialogue can seem more than a little sparse and cheesy at times. Just imagine juggernauts slipping, sliding and crashing – but on ice!
Disappointingly, it seems a few cuts may have been made to keep it to a PG rating (the moment someone is dragged under the ice, or when someone gets their just desserts, or even just during some of the punch-ups), but overall it draws you in.
It’s cracking B-movie fare ultimately, and Neeson, as ever, does his best to sell it. He’s definitely the guy you’d want on your side when the going gets tough, and cleverly it keeps him close to the top of the action star list. There’s no chance he’ll be sitting around twiddling his thumbs for very long…
The Ice Road is available on Netflix from 25th June 2021.