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Michael Caine must be one of the biggest stars in the business - no-one else could have made so many bad films and kept on working. There had always been the sustaining suspicion among his admirers that he just wasn't offered the right roles or the best films, but with Blue Ice he dispelled that notion once and for all. As its star, co-producer and prime mover, this one's entirely down to him. Made with the best of intentions - to instigate a series of commercial British features - it plays like a leaden cross between a sixties quota quickie with none of the grace (or imagination) under pressure they sometimes offered and an especially bad Carlton TV movie.
Made shortly before Caine announced his return to the role of Harry Palmer for two disaatrous back-to-back cable-TV movies, the character as good as makes his comeback here in the form of 'Harry Anders,' a working-class retired spy who does the cooking. Now running a jazz club where he gets to play Bogart (with Bobby Short playing Dooley Wilson and Sam Kelly standing in for 'Cuddles' Sakall), he gets lured back into the business when his affair with the young wife of an American Embassy official involves him in a predictable conspiracy involving blackmail, murder and arms shipments.
If the star believes all this, no-one else seems to, resulting in a half-hearted, sluggish and seemingly interminable 101-minutes with only the odd unintentionally funny moment to keep you awake. The film's interrogation sequence shows some imagination as a heavily drugged Caine (attired identically to the equivalent scene in The Ipcress File) finds himself as both torturer and victim, but is all but ruined by Russell Mulcahey's typically misjudged direction that speeds up the action and renders much of it laughable.
But the real comic highlight comes earlier when Caine describes Sean Young, in a part Sharon Stone foolishly vacated when offered the lead in Basic Instinct, as being like blue ice - something wonderful and unexpected that drops on you from out of a clear blue sky. Well, actually blue ice is a frozen lump of excrement deposited from an airplane toilet, as he has already informed Patricia Hayes at the funeral of a close friend and 'vicious b*****d' in the film's opening sequence. Boy, does he know how to pay a girl a compliment!
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