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Here's the difference between women and men: Within its first 10 minutes, "Whiteout" star Kate Beckinsale strips down for a shower scene. My wife called it "unnecessary to the plot"; I deemed it the movie's highlight.

Too bad, because on paper "? specifically, its graphic-novel source material "? "Whiteout" has a lot going for it. An Antarctic setting, a baffling murder, the aforementioned shower scene "? what's not to love?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. Beckinsale plays Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshal assigned to a South Pole science lab. She and the rest of the crew are due to leave in a few days, before a six-month winter season comes to envelope the icy terrain in darkness. But someone has taken an extended leave of absence "? as in, forever "? when a body is found mutilated in the middle of nowhere.

While seeking clues, Carrie falls into a crevasse and discovers a Russian plane, which crash-landed years earlier, killing everyone aboard. But the aircraft was carrying a piece of cargo somebody still wants ... and it ain't a crate of vodka.

That shower scene aside, "Whiteout" initially bores, bogging the narrative down with too much exposition and not enough of everything else. About midway, the flick gets interesting "? even if only because it suddenly becomes a slasher film, and then promptly drops it again "? but never solidifies.

It's staged competently by "Swordfish" director Dominic Sena, but logic is lacking and its mid-budget seams show, particularly in unconvincing CGI that appears with every actor's sub-zero breath. Beckinsale is a better actress than she gets credit for; however, the film cannot coast along on her charm.

This isn't Dark Castle Entertainment's worst offering (I'm thinking that'd be "Gothika"), but it can do better. Skip the deleted scenes, which offer no extra chills. "?Rod Lott


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