Maggie Cheung is one of Asia's most talented and most prolific actresses. After nearly two decades in the industry she has proved herself in myriad projects, from Wong Kar Wai's magnificent Love trilogy to, most recently, a moving French film called Clean. However, back in the late eighties she starred in the martial arts action-comedy fantasy, The Iceman Cometh, where she played second fiddle to two martial arts masters, Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah, whose skills continue to amaze to this day.
The story kicks off in 17th Century China, where the evil moustachioed villain, Fung San, slaughters his way to the mystical Black Jade Buddha. Ming Guard Fong Sau-Ching is dispatched to retrieve the priceless item and, after an epic battle with Fung atop a snow-covered mountain, the two are buried in the ice and left for dead. More than three hundred years pass and we find ourselves now in booming 80s China where a team of researchers come across the frozen bodies of these two great warriors, inadvertently thawing them out and letting them loose in society. After a short period of getting accustomed to this new environment the soon revert to their ancient directives, Fung resuming his merciless campaign of evil and terror whilst Fong is in pursuit, still trying to stop him.
The Iceman Cometh is a fast-paced action-packed fun ride, with lots of martial arts acrobatics and powerful swordplay, along with a fair amount of comedy thrown in that utilises the standard fish-out-of-water device. Not wholly unlike Highlander in style - and also in effects - it boast the marks of many late eighties actioners of a similar ilk: the Ghostbusters effects, the clichéd dialogue, the Van Damme-style double or triple-takes of the same punches and kicks. Still, despite these things that would often date a movie beyond the point of being watchable, it remains quite good fun, with lots of awe-inspiring martial arts action and plenty of amazing Jackie Chan style stunts.A great deal of the praise should go to the two leads - Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah. Biao does pretty well in his heroic role, but Wah is even more astounding. He should be laughable in his caricature of a villain - complete with Fu Man Chu moustache - but, as you will know if you have seen him in the excellent Kung Fu Hustle, where he played the henpecked husband, he has a great deal of charisma to back up his antics. They both work well together, despite the restrictions of plot and script which, at times, are positively embarrassing - and not intentionally so. Maggie Cheung supports them up competently, looking quite cute back in her younger days and coming across as sassy as hell in her role as the model-turned-hooker, Polla, who helps Fong make the transition to the 20th Century. All in all it is a highly enjoyable action romp - with equal amounts of comedy and fantasy mixed in with a heavy serving of martial arts action.
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