Insomnia File No. 5: Black Ice (dir by Neill Fearnley)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Black Ice 2

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night at 2 a.m., you could have turned over to Indieplex and watched Black Ice, a Canadian thriller from 1992.

Why is the film called Black Ice?  Well, that’s a good question.  There’s a lot of snow and ice to be seen in the film but absolutely none of it is black.  According to the imdb, this film was also released under the title A Passion for Murder.  I have to admit that I kind of like A Passion For Murder as a title, simply because it’s so generic and empty that it becomes oddly brilliant.  If you were making a parody of the type of movies that Netflix usually lists in the “steamy thriller” category,  A Passion For Murder is probably the title that you would come up with.

But, as for this film, it opens as all thrillers from the early 90s must, with a man in a suit meeting his clad-in-black-lingerie mistress in a hotel room.  The man in the suit is an up-and-coming senator.  His mistress is the mysterious Vanessa (Joanna Pacula).  When Vanessa pressures him to leave his wife, the senator gets mad and leaves.  Vanessa goes back to her apartment, where she is soon visited by the senator.  She and the senator get into a fight.  She shoves the senator into a window, which shatters and promptly kills the senator.

Meanwhile, Ben Shorr (Michael Nouri) is barely making a living as a taxi driver.  He’s an aspiring writer and, just in case we had any doubts about his intellectual bona fides, he has a pony tail and talks almost nonstop.  (Ben also owns a goldfish that he’s named Travis, as in Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle.)  Ben is pretty annoying and when he picks up Vanessa, you’re kind of hoping that she’ll end up killing him like she killed the senator.

But no, it turns out that Ben is supposed to be our hero.  Vanessa asks Ben to drive her from Detroit to Seattle.  And, of course, Ben agrees because … well, there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise.

It turns out that Vanessa is actually a secret agent.  She was supposed to seduce and eventually marry the senator.  Now that she’s accidentally killed him, her supervisor, Quinn, is determined to kill her.  Because this movie was made in Canada, the villainous Quinn is played by Michael Ironside.

The rest of the film is basically Quinn chasing Ben and Vanessa across the northwest.  Along the way, Vanessa and Ben fall in love.  One huge problem with Black Ice is that the audience knows everything about Vanessa before Ben does.  There are a lot of scenes of Ben trying to figure out why Quinn is pursuing Vanessa but, since we already know why, those scenes mostly feel like filler.  If  Vanessa had been as much of a mystery to the audience as she was to Ben for most of the film’s running time, Black Ice probably would have been a bit more intriguing.

As it is, Black Ice is pretty much a standard, low-budget chase film.  Michael Nouri is pretty annoying but Joanna Pacula and Michael Ironside both give good performances.  It snows throughout the entire film and there’s a few genuinely impressive shots of the three main characters running across the icy landscape.  Otherwise, Black Ice is pretty forgettable but it also doesn’t require much thought, which might make it an appropriate film to watch if you’ve got insomnia.

Black Ice

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
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17 responses to “Insomnia File No. 5: Black Ice (dir by Neill Fearnley)

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