September 17, 2009

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Whiteout (R)
Kate Beckinsale plays every TV cop in Whiteout, a CSI: Antarctica with extra snow and shower scenes.

Because if Van Helsing taught us nothing else it taught us that people will sit through a lot if there’s a chance to see Beckinsale looking sexy.

Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) is the shower-taking, parka-wearing U.S. Marshal representing law and order in the wild west of Antarctica. Mostly responding to petty thefts, Stetko gets a report of a body — possible murder — a few days before the base is to empty out for the winter. A big storm’s a’movin’ in fast and those who don’t get out before it reaches the base will be stuck at the bottom of the world for the season. Helping Stetko in her investigation of the guycicle she finds (strangely, left out on the ice without any climbing tools or protective equipment) in the middle of nowhere is Dr. John Fury (Tom Skerritt), the resident medical dude.

Though Stetko does not have a drinking problem or a meddlesome ex (two standard TV cop traits), she does have a traumatic incident she’s trying to get over (bust gone wrong, of course) and is desperately in need of a vacation. Were this a show on TNT, she would have a few more memorable sidekicks, a potential love interest and a really swell “TNT knows drama” promo. Actually, there’s plenty about the story that would lend itself well to a TV show — there’s the flesh-biting cold, the harsh dark winters, the cast of characters from across the globe and with varying backgrounds. It would be a less quirky Northern Exposure, with touches of The Closer. And Beckinsale — not exactly lighting the world on fire at the moment — would probably be pretty good in episodic story telling. She is decent here as a career-focused, slightly driven gal trying to figure out what she wants next — good enough to keep you from dropping the series from your Tivo’s season pass list.

As it is, Whiteout feels like a decent TV series setup and a rushed movie plot sewn together. The crime isn’t nearly as interesting as the characters — fine for the first episode of a series but sort of a detriment for a movie that promises snowy action. C

Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity. Directed by Dominic Sena and written by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (from a graphic novel by Greg Rucka), Whiteout is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.