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Review: ‘Iceman’ takes the heat out of Donnie Yen’s performance

Simultaneously overblown and underdeveloped, “Iceman” fails equally at showcasing the talent of its star and resolving its baroque plot.

Ho Ying (Donnie Yen), a Ming Dynasty imperial bodyguard, is delivering the Golden Wheel of Time, a sort of Ramayana-based Wayback Machine, to the emperor in 1621. Falsely accused of treason, he defies his would-be captors and ends up buried in the snow with three vengeful brothers.

The quartet re-emerges in 2013 in high-tech cryogenic shipping containers, apparently at the order of an immortality-obsessed North Korean dictator.

Accidentally dumped in Hong Kong, Ying falls in with May (Eva Huang), a gold-digging bar hostess. Ho Ying can do everything — killing policemen with thrown pencils, curing May’s mother’s Alzheimer’s by readjusting her yin-yang balance. He suavely wins May’s heart without even trying.

The film stumbles along less gracefully, lurching from overwrought action sequences (including one involving super-charged intestinal gas) to dull stretches of exposition. Eventually it reaches a seemingly endless climactic battle sequence that includes a motorcycle chase, a horseback chase, car crashes, helicopters, explosions and, of course, fights with swords, shields, halberds, chains and screams.

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The audience has no idea of how the soldiers were found, why they’re alive after 400 years in the ice, if the Golden Wheel of Time actually works, or why the North Koreans aren’t looking for their missing Ming warriors.

Although it can’t have been easy, director Law Wing-cheong manages to defuse Yen’s charismatic skill as a martial artist. Ho Ying can’t even wink in real time, and the overused shifts from slow motion to speeded-up action to CG-enhanced leaps, flips and spins bleaches the authenticity and excitement out of Yen’s moves.

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“Iceman.”

MPAA rating: R for violence, language, sexual reference.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.

Playing: At the AMC Atlantic Time Square 14, Monterey Park.


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