Donnie Yen returns with the bewildering and sometimes entertaining action-comedy Iceman 3D. A 3D (duh) remake of the 1989 film Iceman Cometh starring Yuen Biao and Maggie Cheung. Iceman 3D apes the original’s mix of genres but ups the ante with bigger effects. A more complicated plot and an excess of puerile comedy.
Predictably, the whole thing is a mess, though not without some amusement. Yen plays He Ying, a Ming Dynasty-era royal bodyguard who’s frozen in ice and wakes up in present-day Hong Kong. Unlike the original film, Ying isn’t looking for justice. Whereas Yuen Biao’s Ying sought to stop an evil murderer/rapist played by Yuen Wah. Donnie Yen’s Iceman is actually the pursued. Ying was framed for collusion with evil Japanese and frozen in ice alongside former comrades Sao (Wang Baoqiang or Vuong Bao Cuong) and Niefu (Yu Kang). With all three thawed in the present. Sao and Niefu go about hunting down Ying, who they mistakenly consider to be a traitor.
Ying’s real quest involves “Linga”, an amber crystal that’s said to be the deity Shiva’s penis. Linga needs to be inserted into the “Golden Wheel of Time”, and if the user recites the “Golden Mantra” at the same time, important stuff happens. Ying carries Linga and now seeks the Golden Wheel of Time. But he’s stuck acclimating himself to the 21st century, a process that includes urinating with industrial-strength force, drinking out of toilets, riding on top of buses advertising the movie Bauhinia Woman, and hanging around with cast members from Patrick Kong movies.
The lone member of Ying’s entourage who’s not a Patrick Kong disciple is May (Eva Huang). A club hostess who becomes Ying’s confidante and romantic interest. May owes money and has a sick mother (Bonnie Wong). And that’s the extent of her storyline. Meanwhile, Sao and Niefu fall in with Pakistani gangs and become obsessed with curry chicken. Also, Simon Yam plays a bad guy, and this half-hearted plot description may be better than the film’s actual script.
If the detail about Shiva’s penis and its insertion into another entity have not made it evident. I’ll say it plainly: Iceman 3D (Bang Phong Hiep) is exceptionally juvenile. The writers aim low with many gags, including slings at homosexuals, obscure references to porn stars and an epic poop joke. At one point, Ying fights off his enemies by squatting on a toilet and loading it with his explosive waste, whereupon he escapes while others are scraping Ming Dynasty feces off their faces. Besides not explaining when Ying learned about toilets. The filmmakers default to these lowbrow sensibilities far too often. Some surprise and even guffaws do result from the gags. Though their success isn’t related to a funny story or good comic timing. Basically, if poop makes you laugh, Iceman 3D is there for you. However, Farrelly Brothers movies are far more accomplished at this sort of thing.
At least Donnie Yen seems to be a good sport, and participates in the bathroom humor enthusiastically. Yen’s fans might find Iceman 3D beneath the actor. As it kneecaps his badass screen image with crappy comedy and an even worse story. The frustration is understandable. Though it should be noted that Donnie Yen is a producer on the film. And some of the character details hew to his personally-cultivated image. His Iceman is a strong man despite his propensity to fart and fling poo.
Unlike Yuen Biao, Yen is not emasculated by the female lead and instead imparts valuable wisdom and knowledge to those around him. In Special ID, Yen declared, “Life must be experienced!” while in Iceman 3D. He preaches, “You can do anything with insistence and faith!” He also comforts May about her shoddy treatment by Hong Kongers by saying. “We are weird xenophobic beings”. These nuggets of wisdom are OK in that they’re not pushed egregiously. But they’re incredibly pedestrian and soften both Yen and Iceman 3D to a near mush-like state. Drippy Donnie Yen (Chung Tu Don) is far from a turn-on.
This mix of elements can amuse, though the whole thing is uneven and eventually grows tiresome. The comedy sometimes works, both intentionally and unintentionally. But the storytelling and script are awful. Too often the film grinds to a halt for an exposition dump. One such scene involves Simon Yam meeting another character on a golf course for a metric ton of exposition. After which he nods and then leaves. This is obviously filmmaking gold. The action fares better, provided the audience doesn’t expect actual martial arts. Yen, Wang and Yu show off decent moves. But they’re mostly in the service of CGI-aided set pieces.
Particularly one lengthy skirmish taking place on the Tsing Ma Bridge. Compared to other films in this genre. There’s a noticeable increase to the scale of the action. Perhaps attempted to compete with the Transformers or Marvel movies as audience-drawing blockbusters. However, the filmmakers can’t match that level of technical skill or polish and ultimately end up looking like wannabes.
Overall, Iceman 3D is a mixed-bag that sometimes entertains. But not enough to justify its budget or status as the first film in a duology. The film ends with unresolved plot threads. Among them the uninteresting romance between Ying and May. Plus the identity of the people who framed Ying. All that is tabled for Iceman 3D 2 (Or is it Iceman 2 3D?), which arrives in a few months – hopefully enough time will have passed by then to wash the taste of this first film away.
Honestly, if Iceman 2 can deliver on the action. Nobody will care about what happened in the first film. A sad commentary on some audiences. But also confirmation that what happen in Iceman 1 is really not worth remembering. Iceman 3D needed to give us something – anything – that would make us want to return for more of time-displaced Ying and his dream lover May. But the most memorable thing about this movie may be explosive poo. Your mileage hopefully varies. This review comes from Lovehkfilm.com.