J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Iceman: He Cometh Anew

He Ying is sort of a Ming era Austin Powers. The disgraced Imperial Guard certainly kicks things off in a similar fashion when he is re-animated amidst modern day Hong Kong. Just why a cabal of shady characters was ferrying about his incubator in the first place is a question that may or may not be answered in Law Wing-cheong’s Iceman (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

In 1621, He Ying was set up by his comrade Cheung and their sworn brothers Sao and Niehu dutifully believed it. Flashforward to modern Hong Kong, where the truck carrying He Ying, Sao, and Niehu’s cryo-pods meets with a freak accident. He is the first to awaken, but Sao and Niehu soon start tracking him. Initially just as confused by the plot as the audience, He falls in with May, a Mainland immigrant supporting her institutionalized mother as a club hostess. It turns out he happens to have some very valuable knick-knacks on his person that will help pay her overdue bills. He also has some highly motivated enemies on his tail. Further complicating matters, his old nemesis Cheung is apparently serving as the deputy police commissioner.

Loosely based on Clarence Fok’s The Iceman Cometh, Law’s Iceman features a couple of awesome action scenes, but they come amid an awful lot of fish-out-of-water dilly-dallying. One thing you won’t find in there is a sense of resolution. Instead, it ends with a tease for the forthcoming part two. Wisely, it promises more action, because the characters and humor of part one may not have a lot of fans clamoring for more.

Of course, Donnie Yen is awesome getting down to business, but he looks about as stiff as four hundred year old warrior-cycle in his comedic scenes. Fortunately, the always reliable Simon Yam does his villainous thing as Cheung. Since Law is a Johnnie To protégé, you know it is only a matter of time before Lam Suet shows up. In this case, he largely steals the show as Tang, an outrageously crooked politician. Eva Huang Shengyi gives May a bit of an edge, which is nice, but Wang Baoqiang and Yu Kang are largely non-factors as the other icemen.


The big action set pieces will temporarily please genre diehards, but the humor just does not travel well. Still, hope springs eternal for part two. For part one, Yen and Lam fans can safely wait to rent, stream, or demand. Regardless, Iceman opens theatrically tomorrow (9/19) in New York at the AMC Empire.

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