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THE ICEMAN COMETH

Hong Kong, 1989 (MIFF 1991, Hong Kong)

Director: Fok Yiu-Leung

These days Hong Kong movies are full of figures from the past transplanted into the present, causing mayhem at every turn. The most hyped product of the genre is The Terra Cotta Warrior, but The Iceman Cometh has twice the pace, twice the wit and much zappier action climaxes - and it's a lot sexier too.

It opens with an act of treachery in the Ming Dynasty that pits imperial guard Ah Ching (Yuen Biao, never better) against renegade swordsman Fung San. For reasons too involved to explain, they end up entwined in each other's arms in a glacier. The present day scientists who find them there take them as proof that homosexuality existed in ancient China.

But there's no love lost between them when they're defrosted and reanimated in Hong Kong. Fung San takes to the 20th century like a glutton to truffles; he claws his way through the underworld, corpses strewn in his wake. The innocent Ah Ching has a much tougher time of it, misunderstanding everything he sees; he becomes the unpaid servant of a sassy bar-girl (Maggie Cheung, Hong Kong's finest actress), whom he takes for a latter-day princess.

The final showdown between the two ancient foes literally gives the movie a cataclysmic climax. Young director Fok Yiu-Leung handles it like a kangaroo on speed, bounding from comedy to hard-core action to powerhouse special effects without missing a beat. (T.R.)

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