i was hoping to get this one up sooner but i’ve been busy with getting myself soon-to-be unemployed. icebreaker (2000) is the second of two die hard-ish die-hard-on-a-mountain-lodge/ski-resort movies, after crackerjack (1994).
despite its title, icebreaker has nothing to do with neither vanilla ice nor suge knight. additionally, you may also be misled by the poster of the movie, which makes samwise the hobbit look like a john mcclane type hero in a die-hard-at-a-ski-resort movie with ash as hans gruber. that may have been the intention but it’s not what ended up on screen.
it is nevertheless a die hard-ish situation though. sean astin (toy soldiers, encino man) plays a ski patrol named matt who’s about to marry his rich girlfriend, played by suzanne turner. they were about to break the news to her father played by stacy keach. a bald bruce campbell plays the villain greig, who’s in the area searching for his nuclear bomb and ends up taking the lodge hostage. so all the elements for a die hard-ish movie are there.
like a lot of die hard-ish efforts, icebreaker 2000 takes a while to get to the main course. although not many of them opens with beethoven’s symphony 9 playing to footages of various activities one can partake at a ski lodge. these way overlong footages only made me think of that brilliant asspen episode of south park where the montage song debuted. you may be thinking of something else, like how much alcohol am i gonna need, how long is the 9th symphony and are they going to play the whole thing, or when the movie will actually begin. there are more snow-related footage later, all set to 90s alternative rock songs, which makes you feel like you’re watching a commercial for either espn or mountain dew.
after even more introductions to various and eventually pointless characters, we get some convoluted expositions about bruce campbell’s villain and his henchmen. there are some scenes in new york that look straight out of law and order. i keep waiting for the “doink doink” sound effect to kick in.
it takes about 30 minutes for bruce campbell to get to the ski lodge and another ten for him to take it over. unlike crackerjack, however, you don’t get much out of the movie after putting up with the slow first act. while crackerjack delivers eventually, icebreaker never does. i think it’s mostly due to the screenplay. it never provides enough reason, motive, logic, nor geography for it to work as a tense die hard type situation.
i do like the fact that they try to inject some humor in the movie. there are a lot of little touches that almost makes it unique. when bruce campbell needs help, his assistant said he’ll call his “canadian friends,” which we don’t see as a group very much in action movies. i also like the fbi guy, who not only is named langley, but also wears a north face jacket with the letters f.b.i. under the north face logo. i like how when they cut the power and communication to the ski resort, they set off a huge explosion so everyone can see. it also predates the movie frozen by having people trapped on ski lifts. we don’t find out what happen to them at the end but they’re probably just extras anyway. i get a kick learning that the fiancee’s name meg foster, which i’m sure most direct-to-video fans are familiar with (see also: project shadowchaser). i also like it when pez is used as weapon. pez represent!
in addition to the pez, a vhs tape is also used as a weapon, which earns points from me. even though it is supposedly the year 2000 a.d., you try throwing a dvd or a fucking blu-ray disc as a weapon during a snowmobile chase. physical media 1, digital content 0. fuck you, clouds.
i was also going to make fun of the ski resort being named killington. but apparently that’s a real place in vermont. in fact, the movie is bankrolled by a vermont company that seems to try to draw film productions to its state, which i am all for. though overall disappointing, the let’s-put-on-a-show element makes me forgive its incompetence and treat it more as a little goofy project. although i can’t quite forgive the cheating framing and camera angles and the same scenes used repeatedly in the third act. it’s the same kind of shit that you don’t see in the early/golden age of direct-to-video movies until the asylum movies.
like most die hard-ish movies, bruce campbell’s villain is the highlight of the movie. the movie lacks energy whenever he’s not on screen. i think maybe the filmmakers know this too, since they didn’t make him to be a bad guy all the way through. in fact, there is a scene of him telling his story that’s quite touching. it works really well on its own but in the context of the movie, it’s one of the few bright spots.
the pitch: die hard at a ski lodge
bruno, the mcclane surrogate: sean astin, though he doesn’t actually do that much.
the gruber factor: a bald bruce campbell.
the hans objective: to get his nuclear bomb and detonate it because um…he wants to.
wrong place at the wrong time: astin wants to save his fiancee and his future father-in-law, and he works at the ski lodge. we never get the feeling that he’s the only man for the job or he’s trapped there.
the help: astin has a squimy sidekick who provides comic relief, and seems to be more useful in the situation than astin is. there’s also stacy keach’s father-in-law character.
the family element: astin wants to save his finacee, and the father-in-law, but mostly, the finacee.
bonfire of the weaponry: guns, nuclear bomb, helicopter, rocket launcher, time bomb, detonator, vhs tape, pez dispenser (attempted), snowball.
last man standing: there’s a snowmobile vs snowmobile chase, snowboard vs snowboard chase, but no one on one between astin and campbell. i do like the snowball bit near the end.
unbearables: the beethoven opening score is used in die hard. the police are shown as useless and the feds show up but are destroyed by the bad guys. the class issue touched upon in the die hard movies is blown up to shakespearean or soap opera proportion. there’s cutting of power and communication and walkie talkies as in die hard. there’s a blonde hair guy and a tech guy in glasses, like in die hard 1. bruce campbell’s first name is bruce and he is bald in the movie. helicopters destroyed also. campbell’s terrorist leader has some kind of terminal disease, like willem dafoe in speed 2. except campbell is dying on the day the movie takes place, so it makes his plan kind of pointless. the bad guys stopped at the snowy mountain to get something back is more like cliffhanger. sean astin stars in the die hard-ish deterrence, tv’s 24, and toy soldiers more than a decade before. campbell is also in die hard-ish terminal invasion, running time, and assault on dome 4.