Sep 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

Right after an incoherently directed opening shoot-out, Whiteout slingshots to present-day Antarctica to give us the beautiful Kate Beckinsale stripping down to her undies, lifting her lovely arse toward the camera to turn a faucet then jump in the shower. It doesn't equal the leather bodysuit she sported in the Underworld films, but for slobbering fanboys it's as much as they'll get. After all, this standard-issue thriller is set in the coldest place on Earth, where thick parkas and snow pants are all the rage.

Based on Greg Rucka's comic-book series, Whiteout wants to be an exciting snowbound whodunit with Beckinsale's Carrie Stetko, the marshal of a South Pole science base, tracking down an icepick-wielding murderer. Despite a raging winter storm, plenty of claustrophobic locations and a hearty handful of suspects (though it's not hard to guess who's pulling the strings), the mystery and characters are surprisingly conventional, barely rising to the level of a good CSI episode. Credited to four different screenwriters, the script smacks of written-by-committee dialogue and plot developments. 

There's little doubt the exotic Antarctic setting was the big draw for Hollywood producers, and the set designers and effects teams do a bang-up job of delivering a bone-chilling landscape. Unfortunately, Dominic Sena's hamfisted direction underlines every clichéd misdirection, twist and red herring the writers offer up, while never capturing the forbidding grandeur of the film's locale. Worse, his action scenes are so chaotic and muddled, you can't blame the cold winds for the audience's lowered pulse.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].