Blue Ice is a routine spy thriller from Australian director Russell Mulcahy. It is far from the worst film that Caine has done, but for a man that spy films are his bread and butter this is a token effort. In Caine’s autobiography, ‘What’s It All About’, he makes mention of how great it was to be working with Bob Hoskins again. But don’t believe it. Hoskins’ role is barely more than a cameo.
The film starts with a young American agent, Kyle (Todd Boyce), poking around the docks in London, but he is spotted by an unseen quarry driving a red mail van. He quickly flees and phones his ex-lover, Stacy Mansdorf (Sean Young). She answers her mobile phone whilst driving and ploughs into the back of Harry Ander’s car. Harry (Michael Caine), a jazz club owner, is not too enthused by the vandalism of his classic Jaguar Mk II, but still invites Stacy back to his club for a drink. It doesn’t take long for Stacy to get her kit off, and before you can say ‘Honey Pot Trap’, Harry has fallen for her, hook, line and sinker. Oh, did I mention that Harry used to be a spy? Of course he was, but he was forced out after a bit of unsanctioned rough-housing with a Czech agent.
As he explains to Stacy:
HARRY: “…..I took him up to the roof.”
STACY: “What happened then?”
HARRY: “The Czech bounced!”
Hardly subtle, but good fun. Now, coincidentally, Stacy needs a man to discreetly track down her ex-lover, who has gone missing, and an ex-spook like Harry seems just the man for the job.
Harry starts his investigation with a visit to Scotland Yard and an old friend Osgood (Alun Armstrong). For a fee, three hundred pounds, ‘Ossy’ is willing to help. Later at the jazz club, Harry receives a phone call. Osgood has tracked Kyle down to a seedy hotel in South East London. Harry whizzes over there. ‘Ossy’ points out Kyle as he enters the Hotel. Harry asks ‘Ossy’ to keep watch while he makes a quick phone call to Stacy. When Harry leaves the phone box, ‘Ossy’ has disappeared. Cautiously, Harry enters the hotel and goes up to Kyle’s room. There’s still no sign of ‘Ossy’ but Kyle is in his room, but with a bullet hole in his forehead. The window is open, so Harry steps outside and up onto the roof. The killer is fleeing the scene. He fires a shot at Harry, who takes cover behind a chimney stack. Behind the chimney, Harry also finds ‘Ossy’s’ dead body. Harry is pretty upset at the death of his friend, and relentlessly pursues the killer.
Down on the street now, after a near miss on the railway tracks, Harry catches up with the killer, and hopes to get some answers. As Harry starts his line of questioning, out of nowhere, the dreaded red mail van appears and clips Harry, sending him crashing into a pile of garbage. The killer gets away, and Harry has no answers, but a lot of trouble.
Now Harry is up to his neck, not only with a double homicide, but also with something far bigger that may or may not involve Stacy Mansdorf.
Caine seems to be enjoying himself, even though he is clearly too old for the role. Sean Young, on the other hand is as cold as ice. She is undeniably attractive, but hardly register’s on the human emotion scale. It’s almost as if she is recycling her android character from Blade Runner.
The film’s tone shifts very wildly at the end, and it just doesn’t fit in with the scenes that have gone before. The problem is not the usual espionage twist at the end, but a poorly acted character twist. One of the players flip and becomes a psychopath. It is a shame, because up until that point, the film had been half decent – far from perfect – but enjoyable.
The soundtrack to Blue Ice by Michael Kamen is pretty good if you like Bee-Bop jazz. It doesn’t really follow the film, but it is pretty cool anyway. And it features Charlie Watts (from The Rolling Stones) and the Big Band. Musicans include Bobby Short (who plays Buddy in the movie – Piano), Dave Green (Bass), Anthony Kerr (Vibes), Gerald Presencer (Trumpet), and featured musicians Pete King (Alto Sax), and Steve Williamson (Tenor Sax). Oh yes, and Charlie Watts (Drums).
At the end of the day, Blue Ice isn’t a great spy film. It tries hard, but fails due to an uneven script. Any joy that comes from the film, is derived from watching Michael Caine in a role that he has been playing for years (another Harry), This film is for Caine fans only.
The credits claim that Harry Anders is based on a character created by author Ted Allbeury. I have tried to do a little research, but this is as much as I have ascertained.
Allbeury created a Polish-British agent called Tad Anders who appeared in three novels, Snowball (1974), Palomino Blonde (or Omega-Minus in the US) (1975), and The Judas Factor (1984). I have never read these books. Maybe ‘Harry’ is a son?
Please feel free to drop me a line or post a comment if you know more about the history of Harry Anders!
This review is based on the HBO Video DVD USA