(director: Dominic Sena; screenwriters: Erich Hoeber/Jon Hoeber/Chad Hayes/Carey W. Hayes/based on the graphic novel written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber; cinematographer: Chris Soos; editor: Martin Hunter; music: John Frizzell; cast: Kate Beckinsale (Carrie Stetko), Gabriel Macht (Robert Pryce), Tom Skerritt (Dr. John Fury), Columbus Short (Delfy), Alex O’Loughlin (Russell Haden), Shawn Doyle (Sam Murphy), Todd (Rubin), Steve Lucescu (Mooney), Marc James Beauchamp (Weiss); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Joel Silver/Susan Downey/David Gambino; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2009)

“Is best when dealing with the splendors of the natural landscape.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Thriller that’s set in Antarctica (coldest spot in the planet) and has whiteouts, bad Russians, greedy scientists, frozen corpses and Kate Beckinsale as a conscientious U.S. Marshal chasing down a killer while looking foxy despite losing a couple of fingers in the frigid climate and throughout is usually wrapped up in thermal clothes.

Director Dominic Sena (“Swordfish”/”Kalifornia”/”Gone in Sixty Seconds”) is best when dealing with the splendors of the natural landscape (with Manitoba subbing for Antarctica). He has problems though plowing his way through red herrings, shallow characters and ill-conceived plot points.

It’s based on Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s 2001 graphic novel, and is written by Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber, Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes (a family project between two writing brother teams).

The plot turns on the discovery of a dead body, that of a U.S. geologist, found murdered in the frozen tundra, which is the first murder ever in Antarctica. This instigates an investigation by tough-minded U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), who is first introduced stripping down to her undies and wiggling her behind before showering. She has been assigned to a U.S. research base, Camp Delta One-One, in Antarctica, after killing her double-crossing partner in a Miami drug bust–something that left her questioning her ability to function as a marshal and leaves her with recurring nightmares of her partner falling from a tall building after she plugged him.

The investigation leads to locating a missing Russian plane buried beneath the snow and possibly containing in its missing secret cargo, locked in a metal box, nuclear material. The plane that went down in 1957 has been discovered recently by someone on the base who never reported that info on the plane that was missing for some 50 years, and has stolen the canisters in the metal box.

All this flurry of activity happens as Carrie’s uneventful two-year stint in Antarctica is about up, and if she reports the case she will remain there and be unable to leave as the base has been ordered to evacuate by the commander (Shawn Doyle) due to complete darkness about to cover the area for the next six months of winter. But Carrie has things to work out, like if she’s really up to the job after the trauma in Miami, and gets on the case as if that’s her best therapy to cure her ills. This psychological trapping thrown into the plot seems both fake and absurd, and leaves us with an unconvincing character that the miscast Beckinsale fails to make convincing (though in fairness to her, the script was so lame I doubt if any actress could do much better).

On the base Carrie pals around with the men who are mostly likely to be the bad guys. They are: the avuncular but secretive Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt); the newly arrived U.N. investigator Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), who takes charge of the investigation; the jive airplane pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) and the sassy Aussie pilot Russell Haden (Alex O’Loughlin).

The main action involves a climactic fight in whiteout conditions, as unidentifiable parka-wearing folks grapple. One of the unidentifiable folks is a killer wielding an icepick. It looked good and seemed exciting, but it was not possible to see this fight clearly (which was a bit of a problem, that really extends to the entire pic).

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