ICE SOLDIERS – Blu-ray review

On the Blu-ray box for the new actioner “Ice Soldiers,” the PR team has put a blurb that opines  “Ice Soldiers” is “the best super soldier movie since the first “Universal Soldier.”

Where I sit, that’s praise so faint you couldn’t see it even if you were reading with the business end of the Hubble telescope. And after sitting through this ice-bound, treadless movie, I can see why that’s the best they could come up with. Color me reactionary maybe, but I always thought those one sentence critic blurbs on the disc box were supposed to make you want to see the movie. This seems quite the opposite tact, using a quote that practically dares you to watch their movie.

Dominic Purcell stars as Malraux, a scientist on the trail of three genetically-altered, thick-necked Russian killing machines who destroyed a Canadian Arctic outpost during the Cuban missile crisis and then disappeared out on the tundra. He’s part of a team that also includes a sexy oil company executive (Camille Sullivan) and a military squad led by a stern yet oddly safety-conscious Col. (Michael Ironside, because of course Michael Ironside is in this movie). After lots of tedious exposition and time-filling dialogue, Malraux finds the frozen bodies in an ice-cave , the bodies thaw, chaos ensues yadda yadda yadda. There’s also an Indian trapper (Adam Beach) who comes along at a most convenient moment, and then proves to be completely unnecessary.

Purcell, who was respectable in “Prison Break,” here brings the kind of bulky, lockjaw performance that makes you appreciate the relative filmic charms of… well, I gotta go back to Brian Bosworth in “Stone Cold.” Not that “Ice Soldiers” really calls for anything more than a steely glare and the occasional voice modulation a smidge or two above the way you’d talk at Starbucks. Ironside is wasted in a colorless role, and the promise of a little skin, hinted at in Sullivan’s humorous Arctic cleavage, goes wanting as well. I must confess that I enjoyed the murderous Russians having haircuts like Bruce Willis circa “The Fifth Element.”

Plotted with the tight precision of a third-grade craft project involving macaroni and yarn, “Ice Soldiers” brings us a premise that could have provided, at the very least, some over-the-top bangs and booms, and a modicum of cheerfully gratuitous head-busting to distract us from what Tom Lehrer called the tedium of our dull and wretched lives. Low-budget genre films with the creative courage of their convictions offer small but distinct pleasures.

But the filmmakers don’t really seem all that interested in the action sequences, or in anything else about this film, staging everything with a bland flatness that no amount of gunfire can cover up. The budget limitations show in cutting some obvious corners that lead to some unintended laughs. At one point, Malraux’s snowmobile chases and catches up to an airplane on the verge of takeoff, and then suddenly our hero is just…inside the plane, like he was beamed there by Scotty.

A healthy, broader dose of the intentionally ludicrous could probably have done “Ice Soldiers” a heap of good, but everything’s done straight-faced, stiff like yesterday’s laundry left out in the Canadian Arctic breeze. And while that might be good enough for Netflix, you deserve better. Come on, you know you do.

The Blu-ray of “Ice Soldiers” is presented in 1080p High Definiton, in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Like the cinematography, it’s a bland, unremarkable transfer. There are options for English and English SDH subtitles.

The audio track is DTS-HD Master Audio, not that you could tell from how poorly some of the dialogue was recorded (somebody tell the wind machine guy to ease up on the caffeine a little). The bursts of gunfire snap nicely, though, and are just loud enough to wake up you when you need it.

There are no extras on this disc.

Parting thoughts:
A dopily plotted, colorless genre exercise about genetically modified troopers, “Ice Soldiers” just can’t muster up the energy or the nerve to be worth your time.