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Review: The Grey

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POSTED: February 6, 2012 7:40 p.m.
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Liam Neeson in "The Grey."

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**

After presenting Mexico City as the ultimate hellhole on Earth, Tony Scott's 2004 Man on Fire ended with a credit stating that the city was actually "a very special place." Sydney Pollack's 1993 The Firm assures us that Cayman Island officials look down on the sort of money laundering occurring in the film.

And best of all, Irwin Allen's 1978 The Swarm gave a shout-out to our buzzing buddies by adding a credit which noted that "the African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hard-working American honey bee to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation." Unfortunately, no PSA announcement accompanies The Grey, which presents the often misunderstood wolf in such a vicious and uncompromising light that I expect Sarah Palin will see this film at least a dozen times.

Of course, all two- and four-legged creatures are fair game when it comes to presenting them as movie villains - even bunny rabbits and a slobbery St. Bernard had to play the heavies in Night of the Lepus and Cujo, respectively - and the wolves on display here are indeed intimidating. Granted, they often look like animatronic animals on steroids, but they certainly put the fear of God in the human protagonists.

The prey in The Grey is a group of oil-rig workers whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wilds. The no-nonsense Ottway (Liam Neeson), whom we first meet as he's sticking his gun in his own mouth (a wolf's howl distracts him from pulling the trigger), appoints himself leader and attempts to lead the other six survivors out of the wilderness - no small task given not only the punishing elements but also the savage wolf pack that's picking them off one by one.

To its credit, The Grey tries to add a little substance to its terror-tale premise, but Ottway's soft-gaze flashbacks to his long-gone wife and the religious chats among the men (complete with a scene where Ottway yells at the heavens above) only skim the surface of any true existential analysis.

And while there are a couple of good sequences focused on the brutal landscape, the man-on-wolf action is both fleeting and feeble - anemic enough that even Twilight haters might join Team Jacob rather than watch this shaggy undertaking.

 

 

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