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Original Title:
Ji dong ji xia

Hong Kong 1989

Action, Martial Arts, Comedy, Fantasy

Clarence Fok

Yuen Biao
Maggie Cheung
Yuen Wah
Elvis Tsui
Sarah Lee
Alvina Kong
Chen Jing
Tai Po

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Iceman Cometh

aka Time Warriors

Story: In the Ming dynasty Fong Sau-Ching (Yuen Biao) is the commander of the Royal Guard. One of his former friends, Fung San (Yuen Wah), meanwhile has become a notorious rapist and women killer. Fong has the order to find him and take him out once and for all. Fung, however, gets his hands on a magical artefact, the Buddha Wheel, which transports him 300 years into the future, but not without still having Fong hot on his trails. The two finally fight against each other, but in the course of the duel they get unconscious and are enclosed by ice.
Some time later the two are discovered by a team of researchers and are thawed by accident. Without knowing from each other that their enemy is still alive, they try to adopt to the way of living in modern Hong Kong. Fong meets the prostitute Polla (Maggie Cheung), who henceforth introduces him to this "new world". In return, without knowing it, he helps her to cheat her "clients" and is moreover working as her personal slave. Fong has to ask himself why he goes along with this situation and why he accepts his loss of pride. Maybe it's that he fell in love with Polla?
At the same time Fung makes a living as a thief. He can't change his habits and continues to rape and kill. When Fong gets to know, that his arch enemy also survived, he immediately goes after him, because he took an oath before the emporer as a loayal servant and soldier, that he is willing to live up to by any means...

Review: With its wacky and abstruse story, unmistakable allusions to several movies of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, well done humour and nice martial arts sequences "Iceman Cometh" doesn't even pretend to be profound entertainment, but just offers simple fun. With its story and characters the film radiates its very own style of charm, which is pretty hard to resist, and so despite (or maybe especially because) some hackneyed scenes the flick guarantees for a nice movie-evening.

The film begins in typical fantasy manner. With its slightly blurry look and nebular-blueish pictures the atmosphere of so many well-known HK-Fantasy-Martial-Arts flicks is cited and there isn't much time wasted until the first fight between Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah takes place in a great snowy scenery. We are thrown into the movie at full speed, but we have to find out that everything until then just serves the purpose of an introduction. It really becomes thrilling and funny not before our protagonists wake up in the modern world.

Moving cars are odd demons in the eyes of our protagonists, Santa Claus gets what's coming to him by the hands of Fong and eventually Fong saves a "damsel in distress", who is about to be being raped. Of course, he doesn't know that Polla is actually a prostitute just doing her job. Nevertheless, she appreciates the help of the stranger and provides him with food and shelter. This is where it gets funny. Fong drinks water from the toilet, since he assumes that it is some sort of well, after this he gets into a fight with the TV and eventually he joyfully eats the bugs Polla runs away from. Yeah, you have seen these kind of gags already, the one way or the other. Fong has to adopt to a new world and doing so he seems to be a little bit clumsy and silly. Nevertheless, for the viewer this isn't boring at all, for nearly every joke hits the right note.

Apart from the humour, which is without a doubt the movie's strength, there are also several characters that can charm you with their appearance. Yuen Biao ("Project A") delivers a nice performance as the loyal soldier of the emporer, who has to get along with the fact, that he will never be able to return home. With Maggie Cheung ("In the Mood for Love", "Hero") at his side he forms a fine pair and the chemistry between them is just as it should be. Fong somehow has to be pitied by the viewer when we see how he is taken advantage of by witty and egoistic Polla who nearly holds him as her personal slave. However, soon we realize why he freely bears with this, and even though the love story might be apparent miles in advance, it is still nice. Moreover it fits well into the movie, especially since it has its own unique charm thanks to the wacky humour.
Yuen Wah ("Kung Fu Hustle") portrays the villian and his hostile relationship with Fong, which oftentimes also shows us that they were once really good friends, adds something special to the feud. As the gone-mad woman-killer, who soon samples the new world's delights like the walkman or the "car roof surfing", he has some really great duels with Biao.

Which brings us to the fights. The first battle in ancient China is quite solidly choreographed, yet can't really take our breath away. Fortunately, the fight scenes' quality gets better and better every time. Towards the end we get a quite long and very good showdown between the two which makes every martial-arts-fan jump for joy. Sometimes, there are actually some wires used, but all in all we get some really good old school Kung Fu, wheareas the sword duels are as exciting to watch as the fist fights.
The picture when Biao and Wah battle it out at a rooftop and face each other with their swords, while in the background the lively modern Hong Kong is to be seen and an airplane which passes by very close, not only grandiosely depicts the contrast between the two worlds that collide here, but is also a very well done allusion to "Highlander". At the end of this battle even glass windows shatter, which just intensifies theses parallels. The plot resolving around the "Buddha Wheel" and the time travel may be a little bit ridiculous, but that's also exactly what's imbueing "Iceman Cometh" with its own loveable style.
By the way, if you keep your eyes open you might recognize Corey Yuen and Wong Jing in two little cameos!

Of course, you could list quite some flaws of the film, e.g. it is never really clear for how long the two protagonists have been frozen into ice. Actually, this happened after their time-traveling and if the "Buddha Wheel" can only bridge over 300 years, then Fong most likely will never be able to return to his exact time. Not to mention that it's not possible to freeze and revive someone (even though some sort of shock-freezing might actually be able to do that one day). Moreover, some of the special effects look a bit laughable and cheap. Nonetheless, what's really bothering is that the movie couldn't do without one final conciliatory scene. The more serious ending would have fit much more into the movie.
However, it's easy to forgive these flaws, because there is excellent humour, main characters that you'll soon grow fond of and very well captured fight scenes. With its slight B-movie charm "Iceman Cometh" easily manages to be pleasing for the eye and you'll be surprised how fast two hours of great, meaningless entertainment can pass by.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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