Friday, February 17, 2012

Hungry Like A You Know What: The Grey

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: what Harrison Ford was to the "smart action thriller" of the 90s, so ahs Liam Neeson proved to be in this decade, at least over the last four years or so. Unfortunately, as action movies go, this one is a bit threadbare storywise, odd given the presence of writer-director Joe Carnahan ("Smokin' Aces", "Narc") and co-writer McKenzie Jeffers.

John Ottway is an oil company employee (specifically what he does is not clear, at least not to me) in Alaska, and a broken man. In the film's beginning we have a flashback to him about to blow his own brains out with his rifle, largely because eh and his lady are (seemingly) no longer together. Fortunately, he does not complete that act, as he will be sorely needed through the rest of the film. he instead boards a plane, filled with other oil outpost roughnecks. Said plane goes down amid really bad weather (as in really bad even for Alsaka standards) leaving only Ottway and five others.

They may be the only live humans on the scene, but unfortunately for them , not the only mammals. it doesn't take long of the real stars of the feature to emerge, although in Carnahan's hands, they are mostly shadowy, all glinting eyes, fangs, snarls and flashes of fur. The carnage that they leave is, however, far more more obvious, forcing the crash survivors into a "trek for your life" across the unforgiving, frozen wilderness, the wolves in howling, snarling pursuit.

There are, of course, casualties on the lupine side, but from the time the group first strikes out from the crash site, its an easy game of subtraction for the viewer; "and then there were..." Thee's even a token black guy (Nonse Anozie, a easy pick-up from last year's atrocious Conan The Barbarian remake) and he does die (sorry for the spoiler), but he, at least, doesn't get eaten.

So, while it has its moments of drama (especially in the final 30 minutes) and poignance, The Grey is a bit of a retrograde step for Neeson in his ongoing quest to be THE  mature action hero. He's got the crown, he just needs to make some better choices from here on in, lest it slip off.

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