The Iceman Cometh (not the Eugene O’Neill one)

I finally tracked down a DVD of a movie yesterday, and I’m so pleased with my purchase that I am honoring it with animated .gifs. This movie, of course, is The Iceman Cometh (aka Ji dong ji xia, released in 1989).

No, this has nothing to do with the Eugene O’Neill play or Lee Marvin. It has everything to do with Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, and Maggie Cheung. If none of these names ring a bell, let’s just say that Maggie Cheung and Yen Wah are mainstays of Hong Kong cinema, and Yuen Biao is a martial arts wunderkind who isn’t well known only because he usually was the third in a trio that also included Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan.

So, The Iceman Cometh starts out in the Ming Dynasty, where Yuen Biao is a royal guard who is tasked with vanquishing the bad guy, Yuen Wah. A spectacular fight in the snow happens, and then both the good guy and bad guy get frozen in ice and transported to 1989, where they are both thawed out. Biao meets Cheung and wacky hijinks ensue.

The film is insane, bearing a script that is so aware of what it is, that it never hesitates to provide ridiculous leaps of logic as long as they keep the plot moving along. (In under five minutes, the first scene with Biao in Cheung’s apartment manages to move Biao from confused fish-out-of-water time traveler to fully understanding where he is and what happened to the Ming Dynasty. It’s absurd, but it’s genius.) The film is either pouring out comedy or doling out martial arts kickassery at all times, and it’s all dressed up in the candy-colored fog-machined hyperstylized lighting of the late 1980s.

Then the final fight happens, and it’s so amazeballs that I immediately watched it again.

This is where it becomes apparent that this is an Asian remake of Highlander. No, seriously. Right down to the rooftop swordfight with crashing windows, giant light-up signs, and lightning.

Also, there is this perfectly-timed moment.

Pose pose pose AIRPLANE

Then electric spark-swords happen, and there is a glorious moment where a gun is swiped out of Wah’s hand and it ricochets off the camera. I couldn’t find a way to do justice to that shot with a .gif, but I got the sense that it was the sort of thing that happened on set and after the shot, everyone gasped at the cameraman OMG DID YOU GET THAT?

And then this happens. I provide this .gif in case you ever need the sheer joy of Yuen Wah with a machine gun. Seriously, look at this guy. This is an actor who is having the time of his goddamned life.

Look at the joy in this man’s face. LOOK AT IT.

And then, in case you were getting bored with swords and guns, the movie dispenses with that and serves up everything that it was saving up until now.


And then there is a series of fight moves and stunts so glorious that my cheers and gasps accidentally woke up my husband, who was sleeping upstairs. There is a reason that Yuen Biao was hanging with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan. It’s because he deserved to be there.

Though I must say the most dazzling move belongs to Yuen Wah:

If only Dirty Dancing were more like this.

Did I mention that the final fight took a month to film?

Oh, who am I kidding? You should just see the damn fight yourself. Here you go:

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