The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh

Tonight, another from my Vinegar Syndrome pile: Clarence Fok’s “The Iceman Cometh” (1989) starring Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah the man with a bad guy’s face, and the always amazing Maggie Cheung.

Our story follows two brothers from the Ming Dynasty. One a sadistic rapist that breaks the limbs of his victims to kill them, and the other a royal guard to the emperor. To restore his honor the guard vows to capture or kill his evil brother. Due to the powers of some Buddhist artifacts, and a few happy accidents, the brothers instantly travel through 100 lifetimes bringing them to modern times. Think of it as a Hong Kong Demolition Man - except from the Ming Dynasty to current times instead of the future.

Maggie Cheung was the highlight for me. She’s the sassy af chain-smoking “model.” Setting her up as the sassy modern woman to Biao’s straight man royal guard had me laughing out loud. Unlike Demolition Man poking fun at how things could change, this pokes fun at how times have changed since the Ming Dynasty. Whether the changes in gender roles, advent and easy acces to guns, or Queen Elizabeth’s face on money I found it funny or interesting.

The Vinegar Syndrome disc is great and includes some interviews and an extended Mandarin cut. I decided to watch the original HK cut in Cantonese for my first viewing.

The stand out interview in the special features for me was with Poon Hang-Sang. He talked about how important it was that he make sure Maggie Cheung looked great in every shot. As DP he said if 80% of the frames he shot were good he would be fine, but if he made her look bad it could end her career. He described it as a matter of ethics which I admire him for. In fairness she looks great throughout the film, I’d say he succeeded. He also seemed keenly aware of how HK cinema, at least at the time, was male oriented. That seems to be the case everywhere unfortunately.

Long story short I really enjoyed this one.