John Cusack as Charlie Arglist
Billy Bob Thornton as Vic
Connie Nielsen as Renata
Randy Quaid as Bill Guerrard
Oliver Platt as Pete Van Heuten
Ned Bellamy as Sidney
Matthew Campobasso as Bar Patron
Diane Frances Fisher as Lounge Patron
Lori Ann Gerdisch as Bar Patron
Shana Goodsell as Bartender
Meghan Maureen McDonough as Francie
Lara Phillips as Rusty
Michael Stailey as Restaurant Patron
Mike Starr as Roy Gelles
Jenny Wade as Cupcake
Anyone expecting laughs from this dark holiday comedy will be disappointed by the lack of real humor in this ho-ho-horrible movie.
Charlie Arglist (Cusack) is a lawyer, who has embezzled roughly 2 million dollars with his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) from Kansas City mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). Charlie now has 12 hours over Christmas Eve to get out of Wichita, Kansas, before being caught, only things go horribly wrong.
If you think that a noir crime drama in the vein of Elmore Leonard meets the Coen Brothers by the director of “Caddyshack” would seem like just the right alternative to the holiday blahs, then “The Ice Harvest” probably sounds as good on paper as it did to whomever financed it. Then again, if you’re looking for a comedy that actually offers laughs, you might want to look elsewhere.
Who knows what went wrong with this attempt to play with noir archetypes? Obviously, the Coen Brothers have done it so well so many times and Harold Ramis’ cast is just as strong as any of them, but “The Ice Harvest” is comprised mainly of things we’ve seen before combined with things that just don’t work.
Good luck following the set-up, which expects you to automatically know what’s going on when John Cusack’s character, Charlie, steals over $2 million from his mob boss employer. Cusack then spends the rest of the movie running around town, bumping into wacky characters, introduced just as carelessly, so you never know who they are or what relationship they have to Charlie or the money. Some of these encounters are amusing, but very few of them do anything to move the story forward or keep you interested. Eventually, people start turning up dead, and Charlie spends the rest of the movie caught up in Vic’s attempt to get rid of anyone who might stand in the way of him getting out of town with the money. Of course, the story includes all of the betrayals and double-dealings you might expect from this type of movie.
The premise just isn’t very original and the script isn’t much better. For a comedy, there just aren’t many laughs, at least none in the script, and usually, it resorts to pratfalls and the bumbling of the characters to try to get laughs. On a whole, the movie is a grim and dreary offering that gets worse and worse as it goes along, digging itself deeper into a bottomless pit of bad writing. It’s bad enough that there’s nothing about the characters that makes you care what happens to them one way or another, but the production values aren’t that great and the whole thing just looks gray. Obviously, the latter part was an artistic choice in terms of cinematography, but it just makes the whole thing look as ugly as it feels.
John Cusack isn’t breaking any new ground as Charlie, and Billy Bob Thornton is playing the same character he did in “Bad Santa” without the raunchy lines that made that dark holiday comedy so funny. As Charlie’s love interest, Connie Nielsen essentially channels every ’50s screen actress that has ever appeared in a noir film. Clearly, the movie’s best moments come from Oliver Platt as Charlie’s obnoxious and perpetually drunk best friend, who just so happens to be married to his ex-wife. Platt steals every scene as this character that says whatever is on his mind, getting him and Charlie into trouble. Platt might have saved the movie if he was more than a bit player who shows up, gets laughs, and then disappears until the very end.
The Bottom Line:
Those expecting big laughs from Harold Ramis’ latest are going to be disappointed by the fact that “The Ice Harvest” is actually a dark crime drama with almost nothing funny about it. It’s depressing that a cast this talented, working with a skilled director like Ramis, could make such a bad tribute to crime noir, which pales in comparison to Shane Black’s “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.”