Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review of ICEMAN: Fantasy Martial Arts Comedy

December 11, 2014

Since the first "Ip Man" film, I try to go catch all the Donnie Yen films shown locally (which is not often). Last year, he shifted from elegant Wing Chun to gritty MMA in the film called "Special ID". This year, Yen turns to fantasy fighting styles in his newest film "Iceman".

"Iceman" was mainly about a group of four friends who are high officials in the Imperial Guards during the Ming Dynasty. Three of them frame Ho Ying with conspiring with Japanese pirates, leading to his arrest. As Ho tries to escape, he gets caught in an snowy avalanche, gets cryogenically preserved, only to wake up in present day Hong Kong. Two of his traitor "friends" also wake up with him to continue their 400 year old fight.

Aside from that main story, there were several other subplots of various genres. For some romance, Ho Wing takes a liking to May, the girl who took him in, and even helping with her invalid mother confined in a nursing home. For some mystic sci-fi, Ho was sent on some sort of quest by Hindu prophets, searching for Shiva's "lingam" as the key to the so-called Golden Wheel of Time, an ancient time machine of sorts. Furthermore, there is also a crime angle, as a group of corrupt cops were after the three frozen Ming guys to sell them to a North Korean buyer.

The comedy is lowbrow slapstick with groan-inducing jokes about various body functions. Much comedy was derived from the situations on how the Ming guys dealt with present-day inventions. Yet later, the MIng guys are seen to use the internet and drive various vehicles. Acting is very cheesy for everyone in the cast, sadly including Yen. 

Certainly, the best parts of the film are still the fight scenes, even if the martial arts styles used were rather old-fashioned. The overuse of a lot of wire work for those fantastic flying jumps can be disappointing for those who want to see more realistic fighting. I personally liked those flashback scenes set in the Ming Dynasty more than the modern day scenes. The big highlight of the whole film was this awesome climactic three-way fight scene set in the middle of a suspension bridge, pitting chains vs. sword vs. battle axe. Exciting stuff, though it went a bit overboard with its length. 

This busy story with all these plot lines could not really be settled in one film, and the ending obviously pointed towards a sequel. Even though there is a measure of disappointment in this project for Donnie Yen fans, I think this upcoming sequel will still draw in his loyal fans to watch him go beyond what he showed us here. I think the promise to return back to the Ming Dynasty is exactly what this story needs to boost its level of action excitement more in the next installment . 5/10.

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