Cold Fever (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Whole lotta nothin' goin' on. A fitfully amusing fish-out-of-water comedy, Cold Fever coasts for most of its brief running time on the bemused expressions and body language of Masatoshi Nagase (best known in the U.S. for his hilarious turn in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train) and some breathtaking Icelandic locations. A narrative is introduced, then largely forgotten until the final reel; though our hero is determined to reach his goal, he never really seems to care much about achieving it, and I never really cared, either. The vast majority of the movie simply consists of Nagase trudging in the snow, muttering "very strange country" to himself. This makes for a reasonably pleasant, but ultimately very forgettable, 82 minutes. Realizing that they've stranded their protagonist in a bleak landscape with nothing to do, and that this is unlikely to sustain interest for more than five or ten minutes, Fridriksson and co-writer Jim Stark unfortunately opt to populate their film with gratuitously wacky oddballs (there's a distressing number of SuperZany films in release at present); some of these scenes are pretty funny, but others are merely dumb. Chief among the latter is a sequence involving Lili Taylor -- who seems to be trying to wrest the title of Most Ubiquitous Indie Actor from Steve Buscemi -- and Fisher Stevens as Wacky American Outlaws who conduct arguments via hand puppets. Guffaw! The conclusion is unexpectedly moving, and left me in a fairly good mood as I exited the theater, but the general pointlessness and Stranger-Than-Thou ethos left an unpleasant aftertaste.