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The Ice Harvest

Merry F'ing Christmas

Every holiday season there are scores of Christmas films that laud the healing power of the holidays, the pristine virtue of the family, and goodwill towards man. Refreshingly, The Ice Harvest is not one of those films. The Ice Harvest is a dark comedy/noir that sheds light on humanity's foibles, flaws, and knack for fucking things up.

Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) is a corrupt mob lawyer who decides to give himself the biggest Christmas present of his life with the assistance of titty club aficionado, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton). The gift is a hefty chunk of change (2+ million dollars) embezzled from the Wichita, Kansas mob. Granted, the Wichita "mob" is not exactly the Corleones, but they aren't slouches either.

What should be a simple job becomes complicated as Arglist begins to question the reliability of his partner and certain mob associates start looking for the two on Christmas Eve. Complicating matters further is the requisite femme fatale, Renata (Connie Nielsen), and local cops who keep finding Arglist in increasingly compromising positions.

Director Harold Ramis Groundhog Day, Caddyshack) really scored in his primary casting for The Ice Harvest. Thornton is excellent as the scummy and cantankerous Vic Cavanaugh. John Cusack is well cast as the marginally more ethical Arglist. While Cavanaugh is a smooth operator, Arglist is a nervous nelly expecting to be caught. Their banter is consistently entertaining.

Also well cast is Connie Nielsen as Renata, the object of Arglist's affections. Nielsen is painfully sexy and quietly menacing. She is in some respects the female equivalent of Vic Cavanaugh and their similarities become even more apparent in the latter stages of the film. Oliver Platt is hysterical as Arglist's fellow lush, Peter Van Heuten. Peter's continuous barrage of offensive and off color comments provides some wonderfully comedic moments.

While many would not necessarily think of Wichita, Kansas as a corrupt, boozing, titty club rife region; director Harold Ramis manages to convince the audience otherwise. The majority of the film takes place in establishments such as "The Velvet Touch" (a massage parlor with a knack for giving everyone a "happy ending") or "The Sweet Cage" (a wonderful place to get a woman's crotch shoved in your face). Wichita seems like a wonderful place for scumbags to take up residence.

In short, Ramis manages to assemble a near classic holiday film for the cynical, jaded, or otherwise vaguely disenchanted. he Ice Harvest is best enjoyed as a double feature accompanied by Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa. It's probably not a bad idea to accompany this double feature with a few shots of Jack Daniels and chase it with a lapdance.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars