The dull, lifeless Canadian action thriller Ice Soldiers concerns a trio of recently thawed out indestructible super soldiers being reanimated, but since the film around them never comes to life it just seems like the only thing that was thawed out from long ago was the freezer burned screenplay. Seemingly stuck in a time warp where old school cold war Russian invasion politics still matter, it’s definitely a throwback to the 80s, but not in a good way. It’s a throwback to the kinds of cheapie action films most film nerds like to forget: the really boring ones.
Scientist Andrew Malraux (noted badass Dominic Purcell, here looking like he jacked Steve Carell for his haircut to look more like a scientist) agrees to take funding from a shady oil company in order to conduct his most ambitious research project to date: to find the frozen bodies of three Russian super soldiers (created by an ex-Nazi, of course) that crashed in the Canadian North with intentions to make their way to New York and conduct a terrorist attack while the US was paying attention to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The soldiers are found, thawed, and then they wake up to start wreaking havoc en route to completing their mission, and only one man can stop them. You know the rest.
Crafted by the strange pairing of TV and documentary veteran (and one time Oscar nominee) Sturla Gunnarsson and writer Jonathan Tydor (writer of the Dolph Lundgren classic Dark Angel, a.k.a. I Come in Peace), Ice Soldiers never plays to either craftsman’s strengths. Tydor’s screenplay should be witty, fun, and silly, but instead it takes a full hour for any real action to take place before racing to slap something together in hopes that it won’t be a complete bore. Gunnarsson, on the other hand, not only has a hard time making the dullness of the first two-thirds matter, and he also can’t acclimate himself to the action or to inject the film with any humour, instead making the terrible decision of playing things perfectly straight when the very premise is beyond ludicrous. Some pretty unconvincing stunt work and dodgy CGI don’t help matters any. It’s the kind of production that back in the 80s would have needed the likes of a Joseph Zito or a or a Sam Firstenberg to just break even in the entertainment department.
Not that there aren’t brief flashes of something that could have had some camp appeal to it. The super soldiers’ strange love for hip-hop gets a few chuckles. The very casting of Michael Ironsides as the private security colonel who watches over the scientific outpost is pretty spot on, and Adam Beach’s welcome third act appearance as a local tracker/buddy for the hero/deus ex machina delivers a bit of tongue-in-cheek levity. Even the film’s final stinger of a twist is almost bananas enough to make me reconsider everything that came before it, but that would entail thinking back on how slow the whole thing felt. This thing should have stayed on ice.