Having truly cemented his legendary status, Donnie Yen has emerged as one of the few martial arts and kung-fu superstars in the scene that has never really let down his fans, except with this sequel. Still wowing audiences into his 50s with his skill, technique and command of the screen regardless of his role, he returns to the ‘Iceman’ saga with director Raymond Yip for this action-packed sequel, arriving on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital from WellGo USA on February 19.
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During the Ming Dynasty, palace guard Ying (Donnie Yen, from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) is accidentally buried alive in a massive avalanche and finds himself frozen in time as a result. Brought back to life and finding his associates Sao (Wang Baoqiang, from “Lost in Thailand”), Niehu (Yu Kang, from “Ip Man 3”) and Yuanlong (Simon Yam, from “Run and Kill”) still alive, Ying is awakened in the modern-day where he learns that a legendary object can help him return to his time-period, known as The Golden Wheel of Time which can correct the wrongs of history, and sets out to find it. As his journey takes him through a sea of treacherous enemies also looking for the mystical object, he finds himself edging closer to a deadly trap that might hinder his progress for good.
As is to be expected from one of these efforts, the film’s best parts are its scenes where Yen is allowed to showcase his prowess. He doesn’t get to that often enough, but it’s still prominently displayed enough, with several standout sequences. The early battle on the train where he unleashes his fists on a group of thugs makes for a fine starting point, and the series of swordplay-led encounters at the finale
Once we move past that, though, ‘Iceman 2’ has a stunningly stupid story at work. Carrying on from the wild science fiction and adventure aspects of the first one, the implication of being thrust throughout the various periods of China’s history should’ve offered a rather intriguing proposition. This setup offers not only his involvement in an actual event in history with the Chinese forces holding the Japanese from invading their land before World War II, but also the various trips through the past that is engaged at the end, where the fight is carried out across time and space.
The fantasy-laden aspects of this time-traveling storyline, driven not only by the admittedly impressive CGI special effects in the sequence but also the heavy philosophical meandering at the ending merely confuse matters more than anything. Very little of the film makes coherent sense, as the various soldiers attempting to overthrow history because of their adventures to the present-day is utterly haphazard, due to a lack of logic in their motivations since this is never really spelled out other than a fleeting passage about greed. Other motivations are never spelled out at all and major plot points are muddled in pseudo-scientific jargon that really muddies the film irrevocably.
This script disaster is done no favors by a truly astounding lack of direction at where it wants to go. Writer Manfred Wong is content to throw out these nonsensical intermissions but then also draw out the film with storylines that are unnecessary and go nowhere. This comes namely from a love-triangle that had no reason to be included, gets wiped out without any kind of resolution and is tacked on merely to pad out the running time. With no real resolution and plenty of retconning on the first film, it’s amazing that you realize the film is as short as it is since it takes until the village massacre to realize that nothing has happened until then. As well, as good as the train-fight is, there’s no real reason for its inclusion and the whole experience reeks of padding more than the incongruous opening that now plays out in illogical fashion with all the retconning did. There’s a fine story somewhere in here, but it’s not visible on-
Mostly undone by an incoherent story and not enough action throughout here, ‘Iceman 2’ is a thoroughly disappointing effort that borders quite closely on disaster but has just enough to overcome that. Really only give this a chance if you’re a hardcore Yen completist or a diehard fan of the original, while those who aren’t should heed caution here.