Joseph Wiley (Ryan O'Neal) is on the verge of getting rich. Sure, his last few business ventures have all gone bottom up, putting him in the hole, financially speaking, and he's also recently lost his job and his wife. Still, he's optimistic as he drives into Mexico in a questionable Jeep and runs into the beautiful Holbrook (Anne Archer), who hitches a ride with him to a swanky hotel. There, Joseph ends up with a room in exchange for the ride, a room that is meant to belong to a man waiting for a sample of expensive Colombian emeralds. Before long, Joe finds himself wrapped up in a love triangle with Holbrook and Meno Argenti (Omar Sharif), who is not just connected to the emerald business, but also to the death of Holbrook's younger sister. Murder, heists, and rebellion ensues, with Joe becoming more involved with the chaos each step of the way.
Based on the DVD artwork, you'd think Green Ice was a heist movie, but it's more of a tepid thriller with an element of romance, complete with two leads lacking in chemistry and some mighty impressive convolutions on the part of the film's screenplay. Although there is a high-tech vault packed with emeralds in the movie, the daring heist is as lethargic as the rest of the film, which plods along without much sense of direction for most of its overlong two-hour running time.
Much like its protagonist, Green Ice doesn't seem to have any idea what kind of story it wants to tell. The heist story is arguably the least important, a minor diversion in the middle of less interesting threads. Archer and O'Neal have almost no chemistry together; in fact, Joe seems unusually angry at Holbrook for giving him a hotel suite, getting him involved in the diamond trade, signing him up to help punch some holes in Colombia's corrupt military, and sleeping with him. Sure, his life is being threatened from time to time, be it men with guns or meat-eating pigs, but he also never does much to try and get away from it all, raising his objections to everything and then going through with the plans anyway. In this way, he's a fitting hero for Sharif's villain, who first meets Joe while Joe is making out with his would-be fiancee Holbrook in a pool, then later shows him his fancy emerald vault and explains all the security systems, presumably so Joe knows how to rob it properly. Time and time again, Argenti's actions provide the tools for Joe to succeed, which him into a remarkably unthreatening villain. At least Sharif plays along, even committing to the "You? The only one I could trust?" scene in which he spots someone betraying him.
It would be easier to swallow Green Ice's narrative schizophrenia if the direction or pacing were a bit better, but neither is very exciting. Argenti's vault is basically a big closet with one lock on it, a voice-activated switch, and the only way out of the building is through the roof. Joe's eventual strategy for breaking into the building isn't particularly clever -- drop on it with balloons and then rappel off the side -- and there isn't much tension in getting the thing open, despite director Ernest Day's attempts to milk the moment. The ride down the side of the building is the closest the film gets to a stunt, which lasts all of a minute. Later, a brief siege on a beachfront house is faintly exciting, but by that point it's hardly relevant, as the film's already subjected the viewer to around 100 minutes of mediocrity. Only a boat search has a fun money shot -- setting up yet another opportunity for the characters to ignore the obvious.
As Green Ice draws to a close, the film's hook remains inconclusive. Was Joe the surrogate for the audience, drawn unexpectedly into a thrilling adventure? Was the romance the heart of the story, one of a rich rebellious woman finding something in a scruffy everyman? Or, perhaps, it was just an action movie, intended to grab the viewer with thrills and excitement? The fact that the finished film fails to answer this question speaks to its aimlessness -- the real hook seems to have been, "Emeralds look different than diamonds. Can we do anything with that?"
A piece of vintage poster artwork graces the cover of Green Ice on DVD, likely doing the same job that it did when the movie was new: suggesting to the viewer that this is a much more interesting film than it actually is. Anne Archer's character is adorned in a dress she wears for one scene, firing a gun while wrapped around the leg of Ryan O'Neal's jumpsuited character, without any hint of the rebel unrest that drives most of the story. The single-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case (less plastic, no holes) and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Green Ice looks and sounds pretty decent for an obscure early-'80s heist movie. The image is generally a touch soft and washed out, without much contrast to give the image depth, and in the film's key night scene, detail gets obscured. Other than that, though, it's a clean and surprisingly stable picture, offering a reasonable amount of detail and almost no print damage to speak of. Colors also appear decent, especially the oh-so-crucial shade of emerald green. The surround mix is nothing to write home about, but it's as clear as the picture, with nice separation of dialogue and other effects. No subtitles or captions are included on the disc.
Only one extra is included: an isolated score track in Dolby Digital 2.0. Trailers for Firepower, Blood Feud, Quest For Love, and the super-awesome looking Force Five are also included.
Green Ice never quite clarifies what it's about or how it is about it. The movie is a jumbled collection of tones and concepts, all mashed together in a tedious paste. Skip it.
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