When a young American woman is caught and killed for attempting to smuggle emeralds out of Columbia, her sister Holbrook (Anne Archer) teams up with rakish adventurer-cum-electronics expert Joseph Wiley (Ryan O’Neal) to investigate. They discover that millionaire crime kingpin Meno Argenti (Omar Sharif) is almost single-handedly upholding the corrupt regime so he can continue mining a fortune in emeralds. Aided by a small band of revolutionaries Wiley and his sidekick Claude (John Larroquette) attempt to steal the emeralds from a vault on the top floor of Argenti’s hi-tech skyscraper. Meanwhile, the evil millionaire plans to make Holbrook his wife.
A glossy albeit creakily old-fashioned romantic adventure yarn, Green Ice got caught in the whirlpool when Sir Lew Grade’s ambition to become a movie mogul sank with spectacular irony after Raise the Titanic (1980) proved a disastrous flop. Given the inclusion of a characteristic Maurice Binder title sequence complete with glamorous women adorned in emeralds and camera operator-turned-first time director Ernest Day’s background handling second unit on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - for which he allegedly staged the chase sequence involving the submersible Lotus - and Moonraker (1979), Grade evidently envisioned a James Bond style extravaganza. As an operator active since the late Forties, Day worked extensively with David Lean while his work as a cinematographer ran the gamut from A Passage to India (1984) to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). His skilful lensing leaves the film handsomely shot but far too leisurely paced and tonally all over the place. For example, the opening scene is pretty harrowing as Holbrook’s sister is almost raped then shot but immediately afterwards the jaunty score by erstwhile Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (an odd combo of synth pop, flamenco guitars and Tijuana brass) heralds a jarring cut to Ryan O’Neal bopping along in happy-go-lucky fashion till he meets stranded hottie Anne Archer. The film was presumably meant to be light-hearted but features several instances of brutal violence including one scene where a man is fed to some flesh-eating pigs.
As Holbrook learns her sister was smuggling emeralds to help fund the revolutionaries’ cause, the plot starts to revolve around her dilemma between living in capitalist comfort with the amoral Argenti or risking all for some shaky political convictions. Though the film seems to side with the quasi-Marxist revolutionaries (remarkably so, given Anglo-American foreign policy in Latin America at the time) its depiction of self-righteous rebel leader Miguel (Domingo Ambriz) appears deeply conflicted. When Miguel compares his terrorist activities to the exploits of Robin Hood, Wiley remarks that Robin Hood never blew up airports or murdered innocent civilians but is fobbed off with some rather shallow rhetoric. Given Miguel coldly executes any peasant foolish enough to make off with any emeralds yet comes to a sticky though ostensibly “noble” end, its is hard to tell precisely what sort of political point is being made. If any, given the film also has the heroes infiltrating Argenti’s skyscraper by means of hot air balloon in a sequence with some dodgy rear projection set to an atrocious Wyman composition performed by Maria Muldaur of Midnight at the Oasis fame.
Ryan O’Neal’s stardom was already on the wane by the time Green Ice hit theatres. Though his attempt to convince as a devil-may-care charmer are hampered by the one constipated expression he wears throughout, he does share fine chemistry with co-star Anne Archer. It is actually rather pleasant to see Archer looking so glamorous before Fatal Attraction (1987) more or less typecast her as a harried housewife, though she fails to appear in the skimpy outfit shown on the poster. Boo-hiss. Omar Sharif classes up the joint with another dose of his suave villainy though by this point he was routinely repeating his role from Henri Verneuil’s infinitely superior The Burglars (1971). Keep an eye on his character’s bizarrely homoerotic love-hate relationship with a minerologist played by British character actor Michael Sheard who later played the despicable Mr. Bronson on high school drama Grange Hill. The stunt sequences were arranged by Bond stalwart Vic Armstrong but by contrast with his ground-breaking work on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) that same year, are merely passable despite the fairly suspenseful finale where Wiley rigs his beach house with booby traps.