Reviews & Previews - The Ice Harvest

Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005 at 05:00 PM

The Ice Harvest

By: S. Tran

Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid, Oliver Platt Directed by: Harold Ramis
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Rated: Rated R for violence, language and sexuality/nudity

Chilled Just Right

You have to love it when a film like The Ice Harvest arrives in time for the holiday season. Much like Bad Santa was a few years ago, The Ice Harvest is a dose of dark humour that takes direct shots at all the typical holiday feel good films and makes you laugh even though you know you shouldn't.

Cusack plays Charlie, an attorney for the mob in Wichita, Kansas (who knew mobsters existed there?). Charlie finds himself in trouble on Christmas eve after he and his partner Vic (Thornton) steal money from the mob boss. Over the course of the evening Charlie and Vic have to figure out how to get away with their caper while waiting out a freezing ice storm.

The plot moves along at a good pace and the dialogue is terrific. A sure sign of a good movie is the ability to keep the audience's attention even when very little is happening on the screen. While the movie has some elements of a mystery and crime flick its really the interactions of the characters with each other that drives the narrative forward. Its almost as if the events happening to them are secondary to the things they find out about each other and themselves.

To be fair you won't find anything really special in the performances here by any of the leads. Cusack and Thornton give us more of what we have come to expect. Charlie is the flawed anti-hero whose heart is in the right place even if his actions are questionable. Cusack has the ability to make the characters he plays likable even when they do bad things.

Thornton plays yet another slimy character whose moral compass is so far off track that he lives in a Bizzarro world of his own where up is down and good is evil. To Vic killing someone is just like having cereal, just messier, as demonstrated in one scene where he shoots a mob enforcer and tells him to stop pretending he is not a dead man, all the while bleeding from his own gunshot wound. Thornton's character makes no apologies for who and what he is and to his credit Thornton thrives on these types of characters. His dead pan delivery even after he does something horrible makes us laugh when we should be cringing.

Special recognition has to go to Platt as Charlie's friend Pete, who spends the entire movie drunk and angry about his life. I think one of the hardest things to do in film is play a funny drunk. Usually actors just overact and look silly doing it and nothing of the character really comes through. Here Platt manages to steal the scenes and makes us care about this loud abrasive character.

Ramis' direction is subtle and he never lets the score or the camera work over power the actors or the script. Sometimes directors feel they have to use all the special effects available to them just because they can. Ramis understands that sometimes a standard close-up works much better than some jerky handheld camera motion and rapid fire cuts. One small criticism is that the film sometimes introduces plot elements and then doesn't quite go far enough to explain them. For instance I would have liked to have known more about how Charlie stole the money.

This movie certainly won't appeal to everyone but if you want to see a dark, funny film go see this. It certainly will beat the usual Christmas slop.


3 out of 5 stars.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to