Ever since the release of “Taken” in 2008, there has probably not been a more prolific actor than Liam Neeson. The problem is that just about all the parts Neeson has taken since his huge hit with Taken, seem to be more or less the same character. This is an error in strategy, with not choosing film roles that would stretch Neeson as an actor. Instead it seems that Neeson is going for the money resulting in roles that blend together, ultimately into nothing memorable enough, considering how good an actor Liam Neeson is.
The idea of “The Ice Road”, released on Netflix is a unique one, probably taken from the TV series “Ice Road Truckers”. There is an accident in a coal mine in Canada where 26 workers are trapped. The only solution is to commission 3 tractor trailers – for redundancy – to transport a machine that can pump poisonous air from the collapsed mine and save the 26 coal miners. The problem is, the only way to this Canadian coal mine via frozen road over lakes, during the most dangerous time of the year.
The main character Mike is played by Neeson, a professional truck driver who lives in barren and cold North Dakota and Gurty, played by Marcus Thomas, who is Mike’s mentally disabled brother, who was injured in the Iraq war. Another trucker Tantoo, played by Amber Midthunder has a brother who is one of the trapped coal miners. Laurence Fishburn has a surprise small part in this film as a manager of a trucking company who also makes the trip across the dangerous ice roads. The main story here is all about corporate greed and cruelty, that any person who has been an employee of a large company can easily recognize. I thought that the story was somewhat convoluted and perhaps overly complicated, but in the end was an effective thriller with a good ending.
The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for The Ice Road are a very low 47%, which is ridiculous considering the solid story and acting. My rating is 75% and I do recommend this film.
Since the release of the great movie “Taken” in 2008, there has probably not been any A-list actor who has made more movies than Liam Neeson. One reason for this is the huge success of Taken, that spawned two sequels and perhaps another reason is the tragic death of this wife Natasha Richardson, who died in a fluke Skiing accident in 2009.
Not surprisingly, Neeson has never again achieved the heights he reached with Taken – due to the fact that this movie was a very hard act to follow. He has made some bad movies but mostly solid films, some of them B-level and most have been widely released. The new movie “The Marksman” is another generic Neeson film where he is a farmer who lives near the Mexican border – and his story is a tragic one heard far too often. Jim, a former Marine – played by Neeson, was financially ruined because of medical bills, trying to save his wife from cancer and unfortunately she died. How many times in this country has something like this happened to far too many good people.
While patrolling a part of the Mexican border Jim runs into a young mother with her son, trying to illegally break into the United States, while also being chased by a group of murderous members of a Mexican drug cartel. What follows is a gunfight between Jim and the members of the Cartel. The rest of this story is nothing new, with Jim transporting the woman’s son across country to her family in Chicago.
Several things did not make sense in this story, starting with how a group of drug Cartel criminals were allowed to enter this country so easily and then were able to track Jim and the young boy across this country with an efficiency that seemed like a series of insane miracles. At first they used his credit card transactions to follow him, that did make sense, but other methods were so outlandish and unlikely that they would never happen in the real world. Then add how quickly they seemed to make up so many hundreds of miles while tracking Jim and the boy. Somewhere along the line, within all screenplays, things just eventually have to make sense. I also did not like the ending, that had some similarities to the end of Taken 2 – once again forgoing a believable ending into a Hollywood-like unsatisfactory ending that also made no sense.
I agree with the 6.9 rating in IMDB with the 34% Rotten Tomatoes ratings way too low. Despite the many holes in the plot, I give The Marksman a modest recommendation, mainly because of Neeson.
I cannot recommend this movie. Overall, the acting was OK but it was a drab depressing movie that did not have enough new things that we have not seen before. This movie came off mostly as a retread of tired old themes from many other movies.
Please also visit my other blog about screenwriting