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‘Whiteout’ Buried Under Predictability

Being a U.S. Marshal overseeing scientists and other adventurous sorts in Antarctica is like being the mall cop of the tundra.

Not all that much happens.

But in "Whiteout," Kate Beckinsale's Marshal Carrie Stetko must contend with several grisly murders. She's chased in bone-chilling wind by a hooded guy with a pickax in temperatures of 55 below zero, trapped many feet below the icy surface with waning oxygen. Still, her hair always looks perfect - even after being stuck in a furry cap or parka hood for hours.

The unusual setting is definitely the highlight; just about everything else in this action thriller feels rehashed. Fighting for one's life with a killer on the loose in a disorienting South Pole "whiteout" sounds like it would be edge-of-your-seat stuff. But the excitement never reaches the expected level. For one thing, when visibility is that poor and everyone is in parkas and goggles, it's nearly impossible to tell the good guys from the bad.

But the filmmakers have taken care to ensure that at least the men in the audience sit tight. An early, completely gratuitous scene features slow camera pans as Beckinsale peels off heavy clothing down to her blindingly white skivvies en route to the shower. As she lathers up, dreamy music swells. Did we mention the story is based on a graphic novel?

After a stint of dealing with only misdemeanors, Carrie is ready for a transfer back to bigger crimes and warmer climes. But just before she's about to leave, a body is found on the barren landscape. As she investigates, more murders occur. Antarctica begins to look like the mean streets of New York City.

Meanwhile, a terrible storm approaches. She is given minutes to decide whether to get on a plane and evacuate to safety and warmth or face another six months stuck in the dark and icy surroundings with only a couple of hot guys for company.

One of those hunks is Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), a United Nations investigator. He's been dispatched for murky reasons.

Her other companion is known only as Delfy (Columbus Short), a pilot, Iraq war vet and all-around good guy. And Tom Skerritt plays a doctor who has been treating frostbite for too long. Like Carrie, he is wistful about going home.

While the setting can be mesmerizing, little else about this movie is captivating. It's a standard-issue thriller, with a twist you see coming a continent away.

Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity.

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