ICEMAN 3D (冰封: 重生之门)Director: Law Wing Cheong
Cast: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Eva Huang, Wang Baoqiang, Yu Kang, Hoi-Pang Lo, Mark Wu, Gregory Wong, Yang Jian-ping, Jacqueline Chong, Sukie Shek, Ava Liu
Run Time: 105 mins
Opens: 17 April 2014
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
The 1989 film The Iceman Cometh gets thawed and re-heated with this goofy remake starring Donnie Yen. Yen plays He Ying, an Imperial Guard from the Ming Dynasty framed for treason, flash-frozen in an avalanche and re-awoken in 2013. He Ying wanders through modern-day Hong Kong, a world utterly alien to him. At a Halloween party, he meets May (Huang), who upon recovering from a drunken stupor offers him shelter and gradually begins to fall in love with the 400+ year old Imperial Guard. Meanwhile, Sao (Wang) and Niehu (Yu), blood brothers-turned enemies of He Ying who were frozen alongside him, have also been defrosted, proceeding to scour Hong Kong for He Ying. Police chief Yuanlong (Yam) is also hot on He Ying’s tail as a mysterious connection he shares with the Iceman comes to light.
Iceman has had a troubled production process, going over-budget and over-schedule and running into multiple issues with location shooting in Hong Kong. The resulting film was 3.5 hours long and has been split into two parts, with the sequel slated to arrive this October. This probably accounts for the inconclusive ending. Stuffed with over the top, juvenile gags, many bodily function-related, Iceman drowns itself in slapstick, making it difficult to enjoy as a fantasy action epic. After awaking from cryo-sleep, He Ying’s first action is pretty much unleashing a stream of turbo pee which splatters across the windshield of an arriving car. Even the Ghost Rider urinating fire was less of an indignity than this.
Yes, a movie about a Ming Dynasty guard getting unfrozen in 2013 isn’t going to be a beacon of logical storytelling, but Iceman strains the suspension of disbelief well past the breaking point. It’s remarkable how readily May and her pals accept the fact that He Ying is who he says he is, none of them particularly fazed or bewildered by the ancient palace guard just crashing at May’s place. May’s stereotypically camp friend is somehow able to show He Ying actual video of the very avalanche in which he was frozen, and it’s left completely unexplained as to where that footage comes from. Was there someone around filming it 400 years ago? This is but one of the many, many plot holes Iceman is riddled with. Its scattershot storytelling robs the narrative of any drive or stakes. There’s something involving a MacGuffin called the Golden Wheel of Time that is supposedly a time travel device, but there’s so much pratfall-heavy mucking about that the actual plot gets little attention. He Ying only actually meets Sao and Niehu in the present day at around the 50 minute mark.
Donnie Yen, we think you’re a great martial artist and we love seeing you kick ass onscreen, just please stop making such bad movies. Over the last year, the likes of Special I.D. and The Monkey King have been major embarrassments. To put it simply: Donnie Yen leaping through the air, striking an assailant as he lands = good. Donnie Yen drinking out of a toilet, remarking how the “well water is so salty and stinky” = bad. As the female lead, May’s purpose in the narrative is confusing. Huang Shengyi and Donnie Yen share little chemistry, and an inordinate amount of screen time is dedicated to the two characters “bonding” with little plot development actually taking place. There’s even a shamelessly mawkish subplot involving May’s mother, on the brink of being evicted from a nursing home. Wang Baoqiang, Yu Kang and Simon Yam make for forgettable antagonists when the plot thread that binds them and He Ying could have been the source of considerable dramatic tension.
The premise of Iceman has understandably been compared to that of a certain shield-packing Marvel superhero, but it’s really more like Demolition Man, only even sillier than that 1993 Stallone sci-fi flick. We saw the 2D version, but even then it’s easy to tell how utterly gimmicky the 3D version surely is – look out for pieces of curry chicken hurtling out from the screen! The climactic showdown set on the Tsing Ma Bridge is a halfway decent, if flashy and cheesy, action sequence, but it’s far from enough to make up for the preceding mess. There’s some pretty bad CGI, especially during a snowboarding sequence. Guys, xXx was 12 years ago. At the time of this writing, the sequel’s title translates to Iceman 2: Back to the Future. We’ll just roll our eyes now and get over with it.
SUMMARY: Heavy on sophomoric jokes and “stuff flying at the camera” gags but low on fantasy action spectacle and any storytelling coherence, we recommend tossing this Iceman back in deep freeze storage and throwing away the key.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5 Stars