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急凍奇俠 (1989)
The Iceman Cometh

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 07/12/2008

If you're looking for a Cantonese version of the renowned Eugene O'Neil play -- forget it. If you're in the unlikely mood for a Hong Kong overhaul of "Ice Man" (1984) this may be your movie.

Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah are Ming Dynasty adversaries who are frozen, discovered 300 years later, and accidentally thawed where the battle rages on in modern day Hong Kong.

The fish-out-of-water narrative is, not the least bit surprising, given a crude spin by director Clarence Ford who would go on to make a recognizable name for himself selling schlock by the frame ("Dragon from Russia," "Naked Killer," "Warriors: Black Panther").

Maggie Cheung Man-yuk is an oft-harassed prostitute, belligerent beyond reproach, who takes Yuen Biao under her wing and turns him into her personal whipping boy.

Most audiences will love the finale's whimsical use of both ancient and contemporary weaponry but for a film starring Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah director Clarence Ford is far more interested in low brow humor than he is utilizing the leads' collective talents.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/29/2006
Summary: Hmm, salty!

Two Ming dynasty swordsmen (Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah) are frozen in ice while fighting to the death and are thawed out in 1980’s Hong Kong. The noble Yuen Biao is taken in by hooker-with-a-heart Polly (Maggie Cheung), while the villainous Yuen Wah, true to type, falls in with a triad gang. It’s only a matter of time before they meet up again and settle old (very old, in fact!) scores…

Sadly, despite being the most physically gifted of the fabled “Three Brothers”, the good movies of Yuen Biao where Sammo and Jackie are not involved can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Luckily, though, this is one of them.

There’s some great comedy in this one – Polly takes Yuen Biao under her wing thinking that he’s a country bumpkin from the mainland. He’s constantly amazed by the technology of the era, and frequently misunderstands the uses of day-to-day items - even drinking from Maggie Cheung’s toilet bowl (“Hmm, salty…”). Interestingly, Yuen Wah adapts much better than his nemesis, even mastering that essential 80’s item the Walkman!

The final nighttime battle atop one of Hong’s Kong’s skyscrapers is a stand out moment, using the airport as a visually stunning backdrop.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: ha ha! you said 'come'...

a ming dynasty royal guard (yuen biao) is chasing a guard who has turned into a thieving, murdering rapist (yuen wah). wah uses some buddhist technology to flee 300 years into the future, but is pursued by biao...

a typically odd action comedy from hong kong, which is just the way i like them. there's some funny stuff going on with maggie cheung and some pretty good action from biao and wah.

good stuff...

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/29/2006

“The Iceman Cometh” is an effective melding of fantasy, wu xia, martial arts and 1980s Hong Kong kitsch. It works because Zheng, a Royal Guard and Feng San, a villain he has pursued across space and time are single-minded in their quest to return to the time of the Ming dynasty. Feng San wants to rule China and change history while Zheng simply wants to fulfill his promise to the king. Clarence Ford keeps things focused and straightforward so that even when the plot wanders a bit we never lose sight of what the combatants are trying to do. Among the potential distractions are cameos by Corey Yuen, Wong Jing and Stanley Fung; a quick detour to the modern day PRC to ridicule scientist there and Zheng’s encounters with late twentieth century technology. And then there is the doomed romance between Zheng and Polly, a hooker with a heart of gold. While the relationship between Polly and Zheng occupy much of the movie, it is the paired opposites of Zheng and Feng San that create the tension and forward thrust. They are Manichean opposites—Zheng is all good, willing, even happy, to die while tracing down and extracting justice from Feng. Feng is all bad, saying at one point that it is his turn to rob, rape and plunder. So we have good vs. bad, white vs. black, the Archangel Michael vs. Lucifer—and with the introduction of the beautiful if flighty Polly, we have a movie.

Maggie Cheung is sexy, funny, tough and heartbreaking as Polly. While structurally subordinate to the Zheng/Feng duo, Polly’s role is the glue that holds the movie together and gives the audience someone to identify with and root for. Some serious romantic sparks fly when Zheng and Polly are thrown together and their developing relationship is the basis for the well done if not terribly original comedy.

Maggie has a number of terrific scenes and she makes the most of them. One occurs when she is set up with a gross looking trick whose fantasy is to tie her up and pretend to rape her in a parked car. At first she tells the procurer that she won’t do it but a big stack of money and the threat of being splashed with acid convince her. She is quite funny while waiting for the while waiting for the trick to get on with his scenario, rolling her eyes in a boredom while pretending to struggle against the loosely tied rope in the back of the car. This is a light hearted parallel with two other, much darker scenes. One is when the Yuen Wah, pretending to be a trick, ties her to a faucet in a bathtub, her hands over her head and behind her, using her as bait to attract Yuen Biao. The other is the rape and murder of the robber’s wife, played by Lam Siu Lau. This is a brutally horrific scene. The torture, rape and killing is prolonged and lingered over much longer than necessary to help establish Feng San as dangerous and insane and is the only really disturbing part of this otherwise light hearted movie.

Another of Maggie’s gems comes when Polly has Zheng to her apartment for the first time and he is astonished with things like electricity, television and toilets. At one point the television has a scene of a woman—possibly a prostitute like Polly—being attacked. When the channel changes Zheng searches the apartment for the woman and her attacker, so Polly tries to explain TV to him. “Chinese Opera is taken down in a machine and then sent through the wire to the television” she tells him, while holding up a string of Christmas tree lights to show what a wire is. Given a number of explanations like this, Zheng somehow begins to understand how the twentieth century works, using pay phones, buying newspapers and speaking an understandable Cantonese. Given a guide like Polly it is a wonder he can even leave the apartment.

The relationship that develops between them is credible—or at least credible in the context of the movie, in which a 16th century Royal Guard falls in love with a modern day city girl with a hard edge. It is Polly that makes it believable—as a hooker/model who has obviously seen and done a lot of very questionable things, she isn’t that thrown by Zheng’s strange behavior—he is just another slightly (or more) insane man that she has to deal with using her guile, her body and her intelligence to manipulate him into being useful.

Yuen Biao does a very decent job with what is ultimately a pretty bland role. After realizing that the Ming dynasty he served was crushed centuries ago, he now lives only to be able to return to it and somehow be of use to His Majesty. He is surprised that he falls in love with Polly (as if anyone could avoid doing so) even after he realizes she is a prostitute and that she has been using him in a Hong Kong version of the badger game—in the then Crown Colony, when the outraged husband bursts into the hotel room, instead of blackmailing the mark he beats him up and leaves the female con to extract the money. Still very effective if non-traditional. Yuen is a capable movie actor when given the chance and he does well in “The Iceman Cometh”. Although Zheng is much too good a person to be very interesting, Yuen is in control of the character and gets quite a bit out of his occasional extreme close-ups.

Feng San, of course, is as purely evil as Zheng is good—and evil is always more interesting. Brecht noted this when discussing his play “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, in which Hitler and his Nazi henchmen are represented by Chicago mobsters in the 1930s. The Ui/Hitler character had all the energy—the entire play was built around him and the audience could not help but find all his force, fire and swagger to be attractive, even while being repelled by him. It is much the same with Feng—he is so completely depraved that he becomes a magnetic character, even though we know he is loathsome. While he murders, rapes and tortures enough for ten bad guys, it is a smaller, quieter scene with Polly that is also very telling. Feng is pretending to be a trick. He pays Polly and strips to his briefs—she is still fully clothed and is waiting in vain for Zheng to burst into the room for the next act of their con game. Zheng isn’t showing up, since he is outraged that she has made him a criminal and Polly gets increasingly fearful and distraught. Feng, seated next to Polly, leans across her, while she tries to avoid even touching him. His leering gleefulness at having her in his control tells as much about him as does his more explicit brutality. Yuen Wah is hampered by the role itself—he has little dialog but seems to have page after page of maniacal laughter. Yuen Wah has played villains for decades in Hong Kong movies and is as skilled as anyone as the bad guy. He does very well here but it could have been a real star turn if the character had just a bit of nuance or complexity.

The movie opens with a swordfight between Zheng and Feng. It is quite realistic (as these things go) with some well executed wire work but is mainly screen filling swordplay—fast, kinetic and exciting. There are occasional and effective cuts to close-ups of feet being planted or hands changing grips but it is mainly the clash of two committed, purposeful and very skilled men trying to kill each other. It is so well executed that I feel I can quibble just a bit, while staying within the context of the fight. A swordsman as adept as Zheng, once he had disarmed his opponent, would never have allowed the other guy to get close enough to use the short stabbing weapon that Feng had strapped to his elbow. But they had to go over that cliff somehow and this was a good a way as any.

There is a coda that wraps things up in a nice package but is mainly notable for Maggie’s costume, an indication of what was to come in years later in “Comrades, Almost a Love Story.”

This is an absolutely essential part of the Maggie Cheung oeuvre. It has good action scenes, is actually funny (including to non-Chinese audiences) comedy and features two strong male performances. What sets “The Iceman Cometh” apart from many Hong Kong comedies is that the comedy is played completely straight. There is no winking at the audience, nor are there double takes at obvious references to other movies, and no playing to the camera or mugging.

Highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 08/08/2005
Summary: 7.5/10 - essential for fans of Biao or Wah

Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah star as Ming Dynasty swordsmen on opposite sides of the law. Biao is sent by the emperor to arrest Wah, but during their fight they fall into an icy crevice and freeze. Centuries later (the 1980's to be precise), their frozen bodies are found and transported to Hong Kong, where they are accidentally thawed out and released onto the streets.

THE ICEMAN COMETH is part fantasy wu xia, part sci-fi, several parts Fish Out Of Water comedy. It's a great chance to see the two Yuens play opposite each other without having Jackie & Sammo steal their spotlight.

Yuen Biao has much more screen time, and is as cute as can be in one of his best roles. His character is noble and naive, and he does some good comedy routines as the proverbial fish, but is able to put on more emotional and dramatic masks as the need arises. He obviously agreed that the role was one of his best, as he played essentially the same character in the self-directed KID FROM TIBET.

Yuen Wah plays the same sort of character he did in most films around this time - the maniacal villain. His role doesn't call for the same range or finesse as Biao's, so he plays the character superbly over the top. He's so evil! He's obviously having great fun with the part, and can take pride in the fact he played this sort of character so well despite seemingly being quite a timid & sweet man in real life :)

Maggie Cheung has the other main role as a bitchy hooker who takes in Yuen Biao and exploits him, but turns into a love interest/damsel in distress despite her pretty lousy behavior in most of the film. Unfortunately she lets the team down a bit with her acting, which is too over the top and seems like she wasn't taking the project seriously (presumably thinking it was just an action film and didn't deserve her talents). There are a few scenes where she seems to regret not trying harder and puts in a better performance though.

Few other characters get enough screen time to be worth mentioning, but Tai Bo does manage to make the most of his low-grade thug part, and actress Lai Yin Saan makes an impression in the film's first scene (I won't say exactly where that impression was made!).

ICEMAN COMETH was a bit of an anachronism when it was made, since the fantasy martial arts films had gone out of favour several years earlier in favour of more realistic & gritty modern-day actioners. Thanks to the time-travelling scenario, the film gets chance to dabble in both. There's guns & stunts, but also swords & wires and cheesy special effects. It's a bit like a reversal of the international version of ZU: WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, which inserted a modern day wrapper story with Yuen Biao being sent back in time in a daydream. The over-the-top wire stunts and the visual style definitely hark back to ZU and A CHINESE GHOST STORY, but also look forward to films like the SWORDMAN series.

One thing that's undeniable is that the film is beautiful to behold - six cinematographers are credited (!), and that includes Peter Pau, Jingle Ma and Poon Hang-Sang. Quite a collection of talent behind the camera then - it only needed Andrew Lau and Arthur Wong for a full house ;) The visuals are a bit inconsistent, as you'd expect with all those different cinematographers, but when they're beautiful they really are very very beautiful indeed.

The film also has an impressive set of action choreographers, including the stars Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah and fellow little fortune Yuen Tak. One thing that impresses is the variety in the action scenes - from wiretastic swordplay, to stunt-heavy gunplay to some down and dirty fist-to-fist work. The action builds in intensity as the film progresses, with the first Biao vs Wah fight rather tame, but the final fight between them being one of the best one-on-ones put to film. The two had fought on screen a few times, but never had chance to really go at it as deeply or for as long as they do here. Given that they're two of the most talented screen fighters Hong Kong ever produced, the results are predictably exciting.

Director Clarence Fok's credentials as a visual stylist and an imagineer are rarely questioned, but he's often criticised for his handling of story & characterisation. I suspected that part of the problem with this was that his best films have suffered from atrocious English subtitles in the past - BLACK PANTHER WARRIORS and DRAGON FROM RUSSIA had some of the most incoherent subtitles I've ever seen. When HKL released DRAGON they gave it a new translation that completely transformed the film, revealing an actual plot that was obscured by the subs on the HK disc. I had hoped that THE ICEMAN COMETH would benefit to the same degree, though its subtitles weren't quite as bad before. Unfortunately the new translation reveals that there are still gaping holes in the plot (e.g. what did the Wheel Of Life And Death actually do at the start of the film?), but it does improve characterisation - particular for Maggie Cheung. The script would still not be counted as the film's greatest strength, I guess, but it does have some virtues - particular the comments on "modern" HK society made by the way the virtuous and villainous swordsmen from the past fit in to modern life (or fail to do so).

The film's real strengths though, are it's gorgeous visual style, the great action scenes, and particularly good roles for Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah to show off their talents.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 12/01/2003
Summary: Misses the mark

Disappointing attempt to blend horror, action & comedy. Two royal guards take different paths (one good, one evil)and clash in two different time periods (ancient vs. modern China) Continuity problems and a weak script ruin heoric efforts by the cast to level this sinking titanic. If its an HK movie about the juxtaposition between cultures your after then try the superior, Kid from Tibet.
Not recommended. 3/10

Reviewed by: Mikestar*
Date: 11/17/2002
Summary: This film shows promise..

Clarence Ford is rapidly developing a cult fanbase, renowned for creating Hong Kong "trashies" in the 1990s like 'Naked Killer, 'Her Name is Cat' and 'Cheap Killers'.

His films are often categorised as offensive, surreal and exploitative. As a creative figure however (much like Wong Jing), his perspective and vision must be recognised. 'The Iceman Cometh' symbolises his talent, and its channeling into engaging and reflexive forms.

Whilst the plot leaves a great deal to be desired (basically the story of a Ming Dynsaty soldier who is sent back in time to pursue an evil adversary but ends up as a lowly servant to a modern Hong Kong women), the style and pace of the narrative itself are impressive.

The action sequences are smoothly infused into the narrative (this more than anything else characterises Ford's unrealised potential) without detracting from character development and progression. Whilst largely set in modern day Hong Kong, strong motifs of tradition and mythology permeate the narrative, adding a sense of fantasy and non-linear perspective.

The performances themselves are highly admirable, with Yuen Biao well-cast as the naive and dislocated soldier, Maggie Chueng excellent as his flitty but redeemable boss, and Yuen Wah a standout as the villian.

Wah's charcter in particular, Fung Sam (along with the infamous Paul from "A Bullet in the Head") represents a highly deviant and menacing force. Much like Paul, Fung Sam is a man without principles of morality, brotherhood or community. His actions are centred on self-interest and opportunism. Depicted as a man without redemption or compassion, he exists entirely beyond rules and function of society. It is this type of charcter (more often that not) that represents the most vigorous and intense threat to Hong Kong society.

Overall 'The Iceman Cometh' is a stylistic hybird that portrays modern issues in a unconventional and veiled sense. Not the most compelling of Hong Kong films, it shows flashes of true brilliance and potential.

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 01/22/2002
Summary: Very Good Indeed !

The beginning of the film rolls along..yes it does lose a little steam during the character developement in the middle..but that last fight scene between Yuen Wah & Yuen Biao is one of the best on film and worth the wait. Clarence Fok (Ford) has made some really questionable films as of late ie.,(Martial Angels) but this one has class. Maggie Cheung is quite good.. similiar to her bimbo role the same year in "A Fishy Story". Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Very good

An action comedy movie, which is quite good. It's hard sometimes to reveiw these 80's comedy movies, because there were so many, and most of them were pretty bad. This one though is quite good. Maggie Jeung is very funny at times, and Yuen Biao taking the lead comedian for once, works pretty well.

RAting (out of 5): 4

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: Hmmm.............

This should of been good but there is something lacking here!! IT has all the elements to better but doesn't pull it off!!


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 10/28/2000
Summary: Boring

Nothing special, another average HK action film. One thing pretty wacky about this particular flick is that they tried to appeal it to both modern and period movie lovers by starting the film in the Ming dynasty and shooting most of the movie in modern context. Well let's just say that the techniques used in this movie wasn't impressive at all. Yuen Biao's attempt to make believe that he actually got transferred into modern HK failed drastically. He tried, but it was not realistic. In addition, the actions were not as good as most well made movies. 5/10

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Yuen Biao is a royal guard on a mission to capture a criminal(rapist/murderer) during the Ming dynasty. During their big battle in the snow, the two get frozen for three centuries, only to be thawed out in modern day Hong Kong. Hilarious scenes of Yuen Biao learning about the wonders of modern technology, under the tutelage of a delightfully funny Maggie Cheung. Eventually the two foes face off again, of course.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Has two awesome fight scenes: the fight on the jeep in midair and the finale. But it is also about a half hour too long for the story it tells. Also not enough time is given to the villain (we only good a few glimpses on what he is doing in the underworld). A decent film but one that could have been a lot better. Worth watching don't shell out a lot of money to see it.

[Reviewed by John Robert Dodd]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

No, not Eugene O'Neill -- but it is a decent Christmas story. Yuen Biao, a royal guard from the Ming Dynasty, vows to find and kill an former friend, but a Time Wheel propels them both into the future. The bad guy gets a spiked haircut and goes on a rampage of rape and destruction. The good guy forges a very funny fish-out-of-water relationship with call girl Maggie Cheung. The final fight is a great mix of guns, swordplay, martial arts, and colorful special effects, leading to a bittersweet denouement.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6