Michael Caine re-dons spycatcher duds in “Blue Ice,” a determinedly old-fashioned actioner that’s terminally light on real thrills. Solid production values and star names may shake small change in undiscriminating markets but pic doesn’t look like cutting much ice in today’s high-tech scene.
Caine is Harry Anders, a retired MI6 op who’s whiling away his years running a London jazz bar. When U.S. ambassador’s wife Stacy (Sean Young) literally bumps into him at a red light, he gets drawn back into the nether world of espionage when she asks him to find a former b.f. (Todd Boyce) who supposedly holds old love letters.
Problems (and pic’s body count) start to mount when the b.f. and a cop friend of Harry’s are found dead. When Stacy also disappears, Harry plugs on alone to uncover dirty deeds by Her Majesty’s Government high-ups.
The movie is a direct throwback to formula pics of the ’60s, with trans-Atlantic leads swanning around a touristy London and an uncomplicated plot that has fewer twists than a cocktail stick. Its clear lack of ambition is in direct contrast to overblown, big-budget actioners of the present.
Aussie helmer Russell Mulcahy, who can turn on the suspense taps when he wants to (“Ricochet”), settles on straight narrative with occasional touches of noir-ish atmosphere in night scenes and interiors. Only misjudged step is a silly hallucination sequence for the drugged Caine, despite some remarkable trick work showing the actor several times within single moving shots.
As the retired Cockney spy who cooks a mean langoustine provencale and reckons Schoenberg was “a bit of a wanker,” Caine skirts close to an aging Harry Palmer without directly evoking the earlier character. His settled, effortless performance carries the pic, but there’s a lack of real electricity with Young, who’s an eyeful in and out of a range of miniskirts but little more.
Ian Holm is pithy as Caine’s former boss, and Bob Hoskins (billed only way down in the final crawl) cameos as an old spy pal of Caine. Other roles are reliable but shackled by ho-hum dialogue.
Tech credits are fine, with richly dark lensing by Denis Crossan and Michael Kamen’s busy score supplying badly needed mood. Grant Hicks’ Ealing Studios set for Caine’s jazz dive is atmospheric. Production tab was a well-spent $ 7 million.
Producers Caine and Martin Bregman are on record as hoping to launch a series of pix on the main character. Title of present item refers to a chunk of ice falling off an airliner out of a clear blue sky and braining someone on ground.