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Ice
(1993)
 

Director: Brook Yeaton              
Cast:
Traci Lords, Zach Galligan, Philip Troy, Jorge Rivero


P.M. Entertainment currently makes some of the best direct-to-video movies on the market. Primarily focused on action, their movies generally boast slick production values on low budgets, excellent cinematography, lots of action (excitingly filmed), and a lot of glass being broken. Sweeper, Rage, and Last Man Standing (not the Bruce Willis version) are movies that have justified more than one rental from me.

That's not to say that all of their movies are great - certainly not. In fact, one of my rules in renting unknown movies is: "Never rent a movie made by P.M. Entertainment in 1992 or earlier." Same goes for producers Richard Pepin/Joseph Merhi earlier company City Lights. And even in these past few years, they still produce the occasional clunker. Anyone see Skyscraper, a Die Hard-rip-off starring Anna Nicole Smith (!) as the heroine? Egad, I'll never forget that experience. Back to the subject - P.M. Entertainment movies are either very very good or very very bad. But with Ice, it falls into the middle.

Well, with Traci Lords in the lead role, you can't really expect greatness. She's been struggling for years to be taken seriously as an actress, but her performance is strictly B-grade at the best. And she has been ridiculously miscast; in A Time To Die (an earlier P.M. Entertainment movie), she looked ludicrous swinging a police baton and beating the crap out of thugs. Imagine your 12 year-old female cousin acting in such a role - that's exactly how Lords was in that movie. But two years later in this movie, her performance suprised me. I'm not saying she's actually good in this role, but somehow seeing her thief character knee mafia thugs in the groin and shoot them didn't make me laugh like two years ago. Perhaps there is a competent B-movie actress in her after all. Though she has lost her baby looks, it has been replaced with a constant pissed-off expression on her face and tone of voice We don't laugh at her, but we still can't identify with her character.

The plot: Ellen (Lords), along with her husband Charlie are a husband/wife team of burglars working for insurance companies to recover stolen diamonds. Charlie stays in the getaway vehicle while Ellen breaks into mobster Malta's (Rivero) mansion to retrieve some stolen diamonds. After some fancy safe-breaking, and the usual fights/shootings, Ellen barely manages to get away with the goods. Then she discovers that Charlie has no intention of returning the diamonds for a measly $50,000, but to sell them to a fence so that they'll have enough money to retire. Ellen is reluctant at first, of course, but a tandem saxophone-scored shower scene with her husband (while she still wears her underwear) loosens her up. To her consternation, the fence is her ne'er-do-well brother Rick, played by Galligan (the guy who couldn't find decent work after Gremlins). Galligan tries to break his image by wearing sunglasses and a day's growth of beard, but fails. Mobsters break up the meeting, Charlie gets gunned down, and Rick gets away with the diamonds. As Ellen weeps over her bullet-riddled husband (people nearby don't seem to have heard the shots), she vows vengeance and is determined to get the diamonds back.

We certainly get a lot for our money for this movie. The required broken-glass is provided by an opening robbery with a lot of glass cabinets, glass doors and mirrors getting broken in all sorts of different ways. There's possibly the first time a large mob battle was fought with fists and not a gun battle. And possibly the first time a hockey referee and hockey players get gunned down in crossfire. Bomb briefcases blow up twice, one of the times providing a lengthy slow-motion scene of several burning people running around screaming. A fat mob boss (not Malta) gets shot several times and happens to be on the edge of a pool. In fact a lot of mobster goons get blown away throughout the movie. The highlight is when we learn Ellen was a former club singer, and we get to listen to a recording of one of her old songs: "Stand tall / When your back's against the wall / You've finally got it all / Stand tall / Winner takes all / Stand tall."

Certainly, a lot of this is fun to watch. And the movie contains all the ingredients of a superior P.M. Entertainment movie. So why didn't I like it as much as others? The energy just isn't there; though we have the ingredients, they haven't been pumped up with any juice. They are just thrown onto the screen as if the director thought that simply putting a shoot-out on the screen would be satisfying for an action fan. That's not how it's done; you have to build up believably to whatever you put on screen, and follow it through to the end and beyond. The director might have just told the actors "Just do it," and left it at that. Maybe that's why Lords looks so pissed off.

So what do we have here. A movie that's neither good or bad, but a movie that's just there. It's the kind of movie for when you have to iron clothes or cut vegetables. No heavy thinking or attention needed - you know what's going to happen and you won't miss anything when your head goes down.

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Check Amazon for Traci Lords' music album (CD)

See also: Phoenix, Night Of The Running Man, Road Ends

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