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

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

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.