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The Ice Harvest
2005 - R - 88 Mins.
Director: Harold Ramis
Producer: Robert Benton
Written By: Scott Phillips
Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid, Oliver Platt
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:
‘The Ice Harvest’ has the unenviable task of trying to be a film noir with a funny bone. David Lynch has pulled this off, but director Harold Ramis – of ‘Second City’ and ‘Animal House’ fame – isn’t David Lynch. The end result is a film that has its moments but feels like it’s trying too hard to be a black comedy.

A strong cast headed by John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Connie Nielsen isn’t enough to rescue the floundering. Cusack stars as Charlie, a mob lawyer who decides to embezzle $2 million from the local mafia boss. His partner in crime is Vic (Thornton), a shifty character that Charlie begins to suspect of betrayal.

On Christmas eve, the city of Wichita Falls, Kansas is drenched in an ice storm. Vic and Charlie prepare to leave town with the loot, but Charlie, in a fit of regret and generosity, goes around town to see his friends and family one last time. However, Charlie doesn’t know where the money is hidden, so he’s dependent on the undependable Vic.

The Wichita Falls of Ramis’ movie is more like a 24-hour Manhattan diner with fading old neon signs above whorehouses and strip joints. It’s the look of stock film noir, with each joint looking like a movie set.

There are some nice moments in ‘The Ice Harvest’ as wall-eyed and haggard Cusack, playing the middle-aged loser far too well, visits with his ex-wife and his kids like a rain-soaked ghost of Christmas past.

Connie Nielsen (‘Gladiator’) does her best to recreate the Kathleen Turner femme fatale from ‘Body Heat.’ Nielsen plays Renata, the manager of a local strip joint. For some unknown reason, Charlie is in love with her. Back story is minimal. Explanation is non-existent. With an unconvincing play on Lauren Bacall/Turner, Nielsen only adds to the film’s feel of a good, if unsuccessful attempt.

At times, ‘The Ice Harvest’ feels a bit like ‘Fargo’ or ‘After Hours,’ but Ramis’ stylistic inconsistency doesn’t allow the audience to savor any moments before it shifts back into underlit noir.

Stealing the movie is Oliver Platt as Pete, Charlie’s ex-wife’s new husband. While Cusack conveys his middle-aged regrets silently, Pete, drunk and vomiting on Christmas eve, is happy to shout out his woes to anyone in the bar and on the streets. There is also a unexpected and enjoyable cameo from Randy Quaid, as a crime boss.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of swearing in ‘The Ice Harvest.’ Letting loose the F-bomb that frequently adds to the film’s feel of being forced. By the time the film listlessly comes to a slightly surprising conclusion, we’re left with echoes of many other films to rent to see what Ramis was really aiming for.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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