The Ice Harvest
The Ice Harvest drifts toward the dark, lonely world of suspense-comedy but has a tough time pinning down either genre. Instead, it remains ambiguous and plays like a bad Bad Santa.
It's Christmas Eve in Wichita--the Las Vegas of Kansas--and there's a mystery (with scant comedy) unfolding: Charlie (John Cusack), a disgruntled attorney and frequent strip-joint patron, and his unsavory associate, Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), have just embezzled $2 million from Charlie's mob boss. But they have grown skeptical of one another, natch. Also factoring into the equation is Charlie's undying lust for strip-club owner Renata (Connie Nielsen), with whom he plans to escape once the ice on the roads melts. But she'll only flee with him if he's a million bucks richer, which leads him back to Vic to sort everything out once and for all. Charlie's final dealings with Vic lead them both down some slippery roadways, but the ice does indeed melt. The only question: Who'll be fleeing with whom once it does?
The lead actors in Harvest are a bit miscast. Cusack's droll demeanor is utilized once again but ad nauseam. His Charlie ends up being more confused than endearing, further highlighting the film's lack of clarity. Thornton shows promise and continues to fine tune his skills at dark comedy. But his role is limited, leaving you wanting more, especially since he's being touted as one of the film's main selling points. And Oliver Platt--who plays Charlie's belligerent drinking buddy--has his funny moments but is ultimately too erratic and uncertain in a part tailor-made for indie darling Philip Seymour Hoffman. There is an exception in Harvest from we-didn't-know-he-could-do-that Randy Quaid. Although he appears late in the film as the merciless, bloated mob boss who has just been robbed of several million dollars, the actor is entirely memorable.
It's usually tough to successfully mix noir sensibilities with comedy. Director Harold Ramis deserves praise for his bravery and departure, but he should've simply stuck with his own tried-and-true comedy formula that has guided his career so well. Of course, the director's clout affords him some big-name actors for offbeat roles, a prime holiday release date and a script that probably was once quirkily gorgeous. But they're square pegs now to be put into round holes. The cinematography is wasted, which is unfortunate since it nicely underscores the bitterly cold and distant Midwest. The Ice Harvest just proves to be another element foreign to Ramis' fans who likely covered their eyes and ears when Robert De Niro yelled in Ramis' Analyze This.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.