Main cast: Martin Cummins (Vaughn), David Hewlett (Bryan), Greg Spottiswood (Jon), James Thomas (Steve), Brandy Ledford (Renee), and Ian Tracey (Trevor)
Director: Thom Best
One of the oddest things about Ice Men is how this movie is about a predominantly heterosexual cast of characters, but it is more well-received among the LGBT film circuit than anywhere else. It can’t be just because Thom Best was a former director and cinematographer on the US version of the TV series Queer as Folk, right? Or because the scriptwriter Michael MacLennan was also the writer for that same TV show?
Having watched this movie, I can only wonder whether this is because the openly gay character is the only one remotely likable in this movie. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Vaughn, an uptight fellow who had recently lost his father and whose girlfriend Renee had recently dumped him, decides to decompress by inviting his three childhood friends to his father’s cottage in the middle of nowhere for some ice-fishing, hunting, and male bonding. He could have picked better friends: Jon, who is the openly gay guy, attends only because he is hoping to get a big photography contract from Vaughn in order to save his failing career; Steve, a musclehead jock who loves himself utterly; and Bryan, the birthday boy who loves his alcohol too much for his own good. Crashing the party is Vaughn’s brother, Trevor. Trevor and Vaughn detest each other – Trevor shows up only because he is hoping to collect his share of his inheritance from his father in order to pay off a crippling gambling debt. Imagine five men holed up in an admittedly large and spacious cabin in the middle of nowhere but snow and ice. Men with guns and sharp knives close at hand.
Ice Men is a very talk-heavy drama, and for a long time, these men do nothing but talk. Because these men are not exactly the most likable bunch, you will have to have some patience with very screwed-up men to get to the end. Vaughn is cruel and even abusive toward everyone – this man is going to become just like his abusive late father if he didn’t watch himself. Steve, a closeted jock who is desperate to marry his girlfriend just to deny that aspect of him, and Jon end up in what seems like a weekend fling, and you know there can’t be anything good to come out of this. Bryan is sleeping with Renee despite being already married. And then there is all that baggage between Vaughn and Trevor. While Trevor is a screw-up, he takes so much abuse from Vaughn and his friends that I can’t help but to pity him.
By the end of the movie, only Jon escapes with his dignity intact as he refuses to play the martyr to Steve’s determination to stay in the closet. Greg Spottiswood has to be commended here for playing Jon as an ordinary guy without any exaggerated tics or affectations that plagued gay characters in films. It is actually easy to forget that he’s gay until he timidly seduces Steve in a scene that is unexpectedly erotic for a mainstream-style drama. Ian Tracey also portrays Tracey most excellently – Tracey is neither a hero or a villain, just a screw-up who nonetheless sometimes demonstrates that he is capable of compassion far more than his supposedly more successful brother.
The other characters unfortunately don’t fare so well. Martin Cummins tries, but he is prone to melodrama when it comes to his portrayal of Vaughn, and as a result, Vaughn often comes off more like an angry clown than a compelling character. It’s the same with Bryan – David Hewlett comes off as too melodramatic in his role. Perhaps it is the script for calls for such hammy acting, but these two male characters could have been developed more interestingly. Poor Steve – he is written as nothing more than a closeted and vain meathead whose insecurities lead him to become quite a homophobe. In other words, Steve is a stereotype.
Still, the men in the main roles are all very easy on the eyes, and James Thomas even obliges with a scene of rear end nudity. His scene with Greg Spottiswood in that scene that leads to their unwise coupling would be right at home in a movie of a more erotic nature despite how tame this scene actually is, heh. Therefore, as dreary and slow as this movie can be, I can’t deny that the scenery is pretty, heh.
Ice Men at the end of the day is an often tedious movie that nonetheless has its moments. The ambiguous ending with its lack of resolution is a poor payoff for sitting through the whole movie. Therefore, I’d suggest that this film be kept for long afternoons when one has time to kill. Look up Jon and Steve’s naughty scene on YouTube instead.