ICEMAN 3D (PG 13)
105 minutes/Opens tomorrow/ ** 1/2
The story: Three Ming Dynasty warriors (Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang and Yu Kang) are frozen in a snowstorm, and then separately thawed by accident 400 years later in modern-day Hong Kong. A shady businessman (Simon Yam) tries to track them down while they navigate 21st-century Hong Kong in confusion. Lead warrior Ying (Yen) also has to deal with his romantic feelings for a feisty bar girl (Eva Huang).
In this action-comedy, Yen is the Great Wall of China differentiating deadpan from plain dead.
As a powerful Ming Dynasty warrior who lands in modern-day Hong Kong by accident in this movie, he delivers his lines with so little enthusiasm that many of the jokes often fall flat.
It is no secret that the Hong Kong action star can fight, but neither is it a spoiler to proclaim that he is not a good actor. Here, he maintains a single blank expression throughout - and you thought his character was supposed to have thawed out from a cryogenic state.
There is a ridiculous gag where one of his hidden talents is the ability to pee as powerfully as a fire hose. Portrayed by someone else more goofy (think Stephen Chow), the joke might have worked, but with wooden Yen, it just comes across as creepy.
He is not convincing as a romantic leading man either. There is no chemistry between him and May (Huang giving an affected performance), a bar girl he stumbles upon by chance at a Halloween street party in Hong Kong clubbing district Lan Kwai Fong.
To be fair, the movie's failure is not entirely his fault. The script is so ambitious and overstuffed that it completely falls apart by the second half of the film.
After being taken back and forth in time over numerous flashbacks, the perplexed viewer would quickly feel lost in all the confusion involving a time- travel device known as the Golden Wheel, which is powered by the genitalia of a deity (it gets more complicated than this).
In between all the non-stop craziness, intriguing side characters played by wasted talents, including Hong Kong's Yam and China's versatile Wang, are almost forgotten.
It does not help that much of the comedy works only in Cantonese, so Singapore audiences instantly lose much of whatever humour works when they watch the Mandarin-dubbed version.
But no subtitles or translation is needed to enjoy the final act, which culminates in a lengthy and exciting fight scene staged at Hong Kong's Tsing Ma Bridge between Yen and his former Ming Dynasty friends. This is where the gongfu expert, who choreographed the action for this sequence, is finally in his element and he certainly delivers with every leap, kick and tumble.
Hopefully, the second instalment of this two-parter film, slated for release later this year, has got the puerile humour out of its system to focus on only the action.