The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest

While Harold Ramis will probably never top the virtuosity that is Groundhog Day, this black comedy of dishonour among thieves shows that he still retains the ability to capture the bleak side of a holiday.

The Ice Harvest features John Cusack in a bad-guy role that's more Grosse Point Blank than, say, Say Anything. In this case he's Wichita mob lawyer Charlie Arglist, who's teamed up with Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) to steal a couple million bucks from his boss on Christmas Eve. After he and Vic get away with the money, they have to act cool for a few hours, but Charlie dithers, not out of any goodness (he's amoral enough that he runs a strip joint) but because he's not exactly the picture of steely-eyed resolve. And women, of course, complicate the matter: in this case, Renata (Connie Nielsen), who runs the Sweet Cage strip club and whom Charlie hopes to slip out of town with.

The bitter cold and the ice storm that hits holiday-eve Wichita thus form the backdrop for the betrayals, double and triple crosses of The Ice Harvest - in its moody atmosphere,, it's not far off from L.A. Confidential or indeed any other noir film in its depiction of a town in which every character is racked with sleaze. Alcoholism, lust, murder - they proceed apace, sins building on sins.

But in the gloom Ramis puts in a few great comedic moments - the unsinkable mob boss Bill (Randy Quaid) trying to shoot his way out of a trunk, for one, and Charlie and Vic's attempts to fit the trunk into various cars - and these touches give the film its distinct tone of bleak, bleak humour. And Cusack's baby face is perfect for his character: it allows him to blend Charlie's goodhearted nature (Charlie cares for his spectacularly drunk friend Pete (Oliver Platt), even though Pete's now married to his ex-wife) with his weary procession in the inexorable logic of noir, with the necessary dealings and killings. There may be no honour among thieves, no bad women with a heart of gold, but ice storms do, eventually, melt.

Cross-posted at Delta Sierra Arts


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