Holiday movies don’t get much darker, or more darkly humorous, than The Ice Harvest, an offbeat comedy that defies expectations. The involvement of director Harold Ramis might lead some to expect a straight-up comedy like Groundhog Day or Analyze This, but despite Ramis’s fine and atypically subdued work here, it’s the writers (Robert Benton and Richard Russo) who put a stronger stamp on their adaptation of the novel by Scott Phillips. Benton and Russo previously collaborated on Nobody’s Fool and Twilight (with Benton also…
Holiday movies don’t get much darker, or more darkly humorous, than The Ice Harvest, an offbeat comedy that defies expectations. The involvement of director Harold Ramis might lead some to expect a straight-up comedy like Groundhog Day or Analyze This, but despite Ramis’s fine and atypically subdued work here, it’s the writers (Robert Benton and Richard Russo) who put a stronger stamp on their adaptation of the novel by Scott Phillips. Benton and Russo previously collaborated on Nobody’s Fool and Twilight (with Benton also directing), and those films are similar in tone and spirit to this quirky, modern-day film noir, set on a freezing Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, where mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) has a lot on his mind. He’s just stolen $2 million from his boss (Randy Quaid), he can’t trust his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), he’s secretly in love with the manager (Connie Nielsen) of the strip bar he owns, and his best friend (Oliver Platt, giving yet another terrific performance) is married to his ex-wife. Before the night’s over, several murders will complicate matters even further, and throughout it all, The Ice Harvest is anchored by Cusack’s good-natured presence in a bad-natured story that dares to combine double-crosses and bloodshed with elusive yuletide cheer. It’s a strange but oddly appealing combination, not for all tastes but refreshing for that very same reason. —Jeff Shannon
Barnes and Noble
Self-consciously mordant in the best neo-noir tradition, The Ice Harvest sports impeccable performances by its three stars and teems with the world-weary fatalism audiences expect from films of this type. On Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, amiably crooked attorney Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) conspires with his low-life associate Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) to cheat the local mob out of some ill-gained profits. Charlie’s hoping that a sudden cash infusion will make him more attractive to strip-club owner Renata (Connie Neilsen), with whom he’s been infatuated for some time. As might be expected, the supposedly airtight plan turns out to be riddled with holes—and Charlie and Vic also begin thinking about double-crossing each other almost instantly. While the characters are types, writers Richard Russo and Robert Benton freshen them up with eccentricities and clever dialogue. Previously teamed in Pushing Tin, Cusack and Thornton work extraordinarily well together, and the customarily frosty Neilsen makes a perfect femme fatale. Veteran scene-stealer Oliver Platt gets some of the biggest laughs as Charlie’s inebriated friend Pete. Although there’s never much doubt as to how things are going to end up, director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day) does a fine job depicting the script’s more novel situations. Why The Ice Harvest didn’t make more of an impact in theaters is a mystery, because it’s one of the most genuinely engaging black comedies in years. Ed Hulse
Soundtrack album to the holiday thriller starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton & Randy Quaid.
Album features music from and inspired by the film including Holiday Songs from Louis XIV, Funeral For A Friend, Hidden In Plainview, The Chipmonks plus tracks from Eels, Peter Wolf, and more!
Loaded guns, ladies of the night, broken neon, broken dreams. Here is a world that is immediately recognizable—through a shot glass at three A.M. This is life with rough edges, in a novel that gives you the straight goods—point blank— one cold, snowbound Christmas Eve in Kansas. One single night, defined in shadings of black and white, when everything changes…
For most, the city is closing up. For a few outsiders, this night, Christmas Eve 1979, is just beginning. Charlie Arglist is a lawyer saying goodbye to Wichita by revisiting the landscape of his used up life: the cold stare of his angry ex-wife, the empty strip clubs and bars where loneliness turns a profit, the frozen glare of ex-lovers and cops long snuggled in his deep pockets. Club owner Renata, an elegant dish in a smoky dive, dreams of financial prosperity and holds a single frame of a stolen film that could help her achieve them. And there’s Vic. He’s got a reputation, a bad temper, and a secret worth half a million dollars. Not to mention a knack for bringing people together…for the last time. Before the night is over, the decisions they face and the choices they make will irrevocably alter the course of their lives—if they can live long enough to see Christmas Day sunrise.