The Ice Harvest

"Good"

The Ice Harvest Review


Harold Ramis hasn't been kind to his own reputation in the last few years. One of the few uncontested great comedy filmmakers, he's diluted his resume with serviceable but still watery products like Bedazzled and the unfortunate duology of Analyze This and Analyze That. So while his newest, the Christmas noir comedy The Ice Harvest isn't Ramis's best work, it's also the sharpest thing he's done since Groundhog Day and hopefully the sign of more interesting things to come.

With a heart as black as exhaust-stained slush, The Ice Harvest is based on a novel by that jolliest of writers, Scott Phillips (A Simple Plan). Taking place over one long, frozen and grimy Christmas Eve in Wichita, it all starts with Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer for the local crime syndicate, handing off a bag to his cohort, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton), the bag containing over $2 million they stole from the Kansas City boss, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). Vic hides the money and he and Arglist split up for the night, aiming to get the hell out of town in the morning. Being a noir patsy, Arglist proceeds to drink, draw far too much attention to himself, flirt with the local fatale (Connie Nielsen, dead wrong for the job at hand), and get more and more suspicious about Vic's motives. Paranoia ensues when one of Guerrard's gunsels starts poking around the seedy joints that Arglist has been hanging out in.

Anybody with even a passing familiarity with crime fiction can see what's coming about a mile down the icy road before Arglist, so it's a good thing that the screenplay gives Cusack plenty to stay busy with until the hammer comes down. Richard Russo and Robert Benton's writing provides plenty of nice, dry moments for Cusack and Thornton to hide the fact that this is all just waiting, a fait accompli. Although the film has a surprising - for Ramis - lack of hijinks and escapades (though a subplot with Oliver Platt as Arglist's drunk boor of a friend provides slapstick relief), it does share with Groundhog Day a certain world-weariness that elevates the occasional mundane goings-on. All the characters seem frozen in their own bored despair - this is hardly the glamorous criminal life. The recently divorced and fairly clueless Arglist wants to escape, but even he knows that on the off-chance he and Vic get out alive with the money, there's little hope of a bright new life waiting for either of them, just more of the same in a different location.

If The Ice Harvest had continued playing things close to the vest in this downbeat manner, it might have pulled off this tricky balancing act of hopelessness and black ice humor. Thornton and Cusack are a perfect match of witlessness and malice, the two could star in an adaptation of just about any Jim Thompson noir out there (Cusack's last try, in The Grifters, didn't quite cut it), but we're left with far too little of them and too much of Arglist blundering about the frozen streets, digging himself into deeper holes wherever he goes. Additionally, the delicately crafted deadpan noir mood goes seriously awry during the conclusion, as Ramis starts to force the jokes instead of letting them come naturally. It's an unfortunate development, as until the final stretch, this is a wonderfully nasty film, the thimbleful of arsenic in the Christmas punch that Thornton's overpraised Bad Santa was supposed to be.

Whatever its failings, The Ice Harvest remains a worthy addition to the holiday season, a smart and angst-ridden piece of crime existentialism that loses only its nerve, never its brain.



The Ice Harvest

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd November 2005

Production compaines: Focus Features, Bona Fide Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Charlie, as Vic, Lara Phillips as Rusti, Bill Noble as Culligan, Brad Smith as Ronny, as Sidney, as Renata Crest, as Roy Gelles, T.J. Jagodowski as Officer Tyler, Meghan Maureen McDonough as Francie, as Pete Van Heuten, as Councilman Williams, as Bill Guerrard, as Cupcake

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Advertisement
Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.