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Make no mistake, this isn't a comedy...
tghoneyc27 November 2005
I had heard this movie described as a black comedy by some. And when one thinks of Harold Ramis, they think of his ingenious work as a director of comedies. But this is a different Harold Ramis. What he has fashioned is "film noir" all the way.

John Cusack works perfectly with the material, not so much in a Humphrey Bogart kind of way as in a Fred MacMurray sort of way. He's the average guy protagonist. He just happens to be a Witchita attorney for a Kansas City political boss.

The film begins when Charlie Arglist (Cusack), with over two million in stolen cash, jumps into the car with partner-in-crime Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton). Throughout the evening Charlie encounters strip club owner Renata (Connie Nielsen) and drunken colleague Pete Van Heuten (Oliver Platt, his fist scene-stealer in a number of years).

The character of Pete offers some great comic relief to the story. He's Charlie's best friend, drunk on Christmas Eve. He's also married to Charlie's ex-wife, and hating it. This leads to an awkward encounter with Charlie's kids and former in-laws.

Thornton is still finding new ways of being corrupt and amoral. Connie Nielsen is a classic femme fatal in the 1940s style. Mike Starr is good as usual, playing a menacing mob enforcer. Randy Quaid does his usual best as Kansas City mobster Bill Guerarrd. And bit player Ned Bellamy, cast as a strip club bouncer with Mom issues adds some fine scenes.

This is about the most straight-forward "noir" I've seen since Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat," but as directed by Ramis, it feels slightly like a Coen brothers movie, with the occasional comic twists to the genre, and the casting choices of Thornton ("The Man Who Wasn't There") and Starr ("Miller's Crossing").

It's not the best movie of the year. But it's good for people who aren't so anxious for a "white" Christmas.
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The Art of Moodiness
jzappa6 January 2007
The Ice Harvest is attractive to two audiences, those being the film noir and/or crime fans and the people who think a movie with Cusack and Thornton directed by ex-Ghostbuster Ramis is going to be a mishap-riddled caper comedy. Unfortunately, this film's heart lies outside of the compatibility of either. It's technically not a crime film, because the story begins immediately as the crime ends, a $2 million embezzlement scheme that is never explained. Also, the film is certainly not a comedy within the ballpark of any other work by Harold Ramis. What Ramis has made is a film that is more of a dramatic exercise in cinematic mood and low-key atmosphere. The good news is that he pulls it off very well.

The Ice Harvest happens to be one of the movies I watch at Christmastime, because the film is actually so well-directed and so well-shot that it captures that constantly sought-after perfect cozy winter atmosphere on film. The events of the story occur over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, all in the small and quiet town of Wichita, KA. No matter how much time it spends during the outlandish drunken bouts of Oliver Platt or the destructive tantrums of Ned Bellamy's overaggressive bartender, The Ice Harvest never breaks its meticulous feeling and image for one moment.

Even though it's not what is expected by the vast majority of those who have seen it or those who mean to, it does have impressionistic characteristics of those expectations that deliver sensationally, such as Thornton's tremendously entertaining time on screen and the thicket of distrust that ushers in over the course of the holidays succeeding his and Cusack's so-called perfect crime. However, these are purely part of the style rather than the substance. The plot is conjecture of film noir rather than the real deal, as most of the twists are nearly meant to be somewhat obvious or expected. Really, the essence of the story lies in Cusack's descent into complete detachment from any virtue in life, feeling as if he's only an observer when encountering darkly humorous yet brooding things over his Christmas.

The Ice Harvest is not really a comedy and not really a film noir. Actually, it bears no genre per se. Simply, it's a wonderful installment in the phantom subgenre of cinematic moodiness.
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"As Wichita Falls... so falls Wichita Falls. " - Charlie (John Cusack)
MichaelMargetis7 December 2005
There's something about a dark, violent and offensive Christmas movie that sends me through the roof. I loved 'Bad Santa' and 'Die Hard' is my second favorite Christmas film (if you can call it that, I can) of all time. 'The Ice Harvest' looked very entertaining from it's previews and starred a talented group of actors including John Cusack (Grosse Point Blank), Billy Bob Thorton (Bad Santa), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), the hilarious Randy Quaid (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) and the even more hilarious Oliver Platt (Showtime's 'Huff'). 'The Ice Harvest' was even directed by the great Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog's Day). Yes, 'The Ice Harvest' had all ingredients to be a very decent black Christmas movie. In the first fifteen minutes of 'The Ice Harvest' I was sorely disappointed in it's quality, but by twenty-five minutes in, I enjoyed every dark minute. It is by far the most twisted Holiday movie I've seen (dark sh*t, real dark sh*t), but I was enthralled through the lot of it.

'The Ice Harvest' is based on the not-so-well-known novel. It follows big-time dead-beat dad mob lawyer, Charlie Aglist (John Cusack). Charlie decides he wants to make it big so with the help of a local Witchita goon, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thorton) he rips off his violent mob boss client, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). This all happens on Christmas Eve day, and he and Vic leave Witicha that night. All they have to do is act normal for 24 hours -- that turns to DISASTER! The two somehow get pursued by the mob, deal with a perky but wise bad-ass business lady Renita (Connie Nielsen), get the cops involved and somehow manage to get Charlie's ex-wife's new drunken dipsh*t husband, Pete (Oliver Platt) involved. It's going to be one hell of a night!

Like I said before, 'The Ice Harvest' is very slow during the start but really speeds up twenty - thirty minutes into it. The writing is solid for the most part (some of it is unbelievable), but the reason I liked it so much was because it was unpredictable. In the theater, I honestly had no clue what was going to happen next, and that is damn hard to find in a film now days. Harold Ramis does another great job directing this, and the cast is fabulous. Cusack and Thorton shine in their roles, Quaid is surprisingly perfect as a cutthroat mobster, Connie Nielsen handles her role okay for the most part, but the real stand-out is Oliver Platt. Platt is absolutely hysterical every second he is on the screen including a hilarious scene with him showing up drunk at his uptight parents-in-law's house for Christmas Eve dinner. 'The Ice Harvest' is enjoyable but it is nothing brilliant. It has it's flaws and displays them, but 'The Ice Harvest' wasn't meant to be groundbreaking, just entertaining (which it wildly succeeds in).

I was surprised to hear this was doing terrible in the box office. I think a lot of people would get a kick out of it, at least those who had the stomach for it. 'The Ice Harvest' is very violent, dark and sick and some of the more conservative and weak-hearted movie goers will find it's material offensive and pure rubbish. I personally loved it because it was sick and unpredictable. It was no Oscar contender, but it kept me on the edge of my seat. I haven't been on the edge of my seat in a movie theater in a long time. Thank you for another fun and quirky black comedy, Harold Ramis. Grade: B (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona, 12/02/05)
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Underrated noir / crime caper with a comic edge
zetes29 May 2006
John Cusack stars, and his performance is pretty much what you expect from him: quick-witted and cynical. But, as far as I'm concerned, as long as that's what the role calls for, he's always good. He plays a mob lawyer who has just stolen over $2 million from his boss (Randy Quaid) with the help of a strip club owner (Billy Bob Thornton). For a good ways into the picture, I thought I was seeing one of the best films of last year. It does start to stumble after about the halfway point, but it still finishes pretty strong. All the actors are strong, but I have to give special kudos to Oliver Platt, who is always a delight. He plays a drunk friend of Cusack's who is now miserably married to Cusack's ex-wife. I don't normally praise drunk acts, but Platt is particularly believable – and hilarious. This movie is a lot of fun and well worth seeing.
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Blue Christmas for Cusack and Thornton in Seriocomic Noir Thriller
dtb27 November 2005
THE ICE HARVEST (TIH), another quirky triumph from Focus Features, should really be sold as a thriller with darkly comedic undertones a la FARGO rather than a comedy with thriller elements a la GROSSE POINTE BLANK (even though John Cusack looks remarkably like he did in GPB here). It's a subtle but crucial difference, and a successful change in tone for director Harold Ramis. The suspenseful yet surreally funny Kansas-set story of nervous Mob lawyer John Cusack teaming up with laid-back yet ruthless Billy Bob Thornton to steal over $2 million from Cusack's boss Randy Quaid, only to find themselves stuck in Wichita by an ice storm and all manner of goof-ups and goofballs, with a hit man on their tail to-boot, TIH tells its twisted tale as if my fave thriller author Jim Thompson (THE GRIFTERS, THE GETAWAY, POP. 1280, among others) wrote it in a jovial mood -- though I suspect that in a jovial mood, Thompson would have been more likely to smirk than belly-laugh. Set on Christmas Eve, TIH starts with the best unexpected holiday-themed credits since 1947's LADY IN THE LAKE and only gets more gleefully malevolent from there. You know our antiheroes are literally in for a blue Christmas, thanks to Alar Kivilo's sleek azure-tinged photography. Cusack and Thornton make such a good team that I'm now eager to rent their previous collaboration, PUSHING TIN, even though I've heard mixed reviews of that, too. Oliver Platt has been touted as TIH's scene-stealer in the role of Cusack's friend who stole his wife and, having lived to regret it, spends the whole film getting drunk and hilariously obnoxious. Platt's a hoot, all right, but Thornton has the slyest lines; his explanation of how his wife ends up killed by the hit man is evilly funny, all the more so for Thornton's matter-of-fact delivery. Connie Nielsen also deserves kudos for stealing her own scenes more subtly and sensuously as the sexy owner of The Sweet Cage, one of many strip joints in town that Cusack frequents (I came away from the movie thinking strip joints must be a cottage industry in Wichita). Nielsen looks like a Petty Girl or Varga Girl come to life, fresh from the pages of a vintage Esquire issue. If you want a wicked little tongue-in-cheek noir as an antidote to the season's holiday cheer, TIH may well be your cup of hemlock. (When TIH comes out on DVD, rent it along with BAD SANTA, FARGO, and/or GROSSE POINTE BLANK and have yourself a merry little day of eccentric movie mayhem!)
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twisty noir brings out the best in Cusack, Platt
btyson-129 October 2005
Take the sardonic wit of "Prizzi's Honor" or "Body Heat." Combine with not-too- bright characters working a shady deal for quick riches in a caper that could have been written by Elmore Leonard. That's what you have in "The Ice Harvest," a highly entertaining dark comedy.

It's Christmas Eve during a terrible ice storm in Kansas City. Charlie (John Cusack) and Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) have stolen a bundle from the mob. This could create an awkward situation for Charlie if they don't get out of town fast. He's the lawyer for the local mob boss, Bill (Randy Quaid), who has a terrible temper.

So as not to arouse suspicion, Vic and Charlie go their separate ways early in the evening. Both have family duties and Charlie has other things to take care of. There's the beautiful Renata (Connie Nielson), for one. And Pete (Oliver Platt), who shares part of Charlie's past. Life becomes more complicated as the night goes on and Charlie meets up again with Vic. More twists and surprises follow.

I almost didn't go to this movie, because the teaser for the Austin Film Festival made it look like a Cusack-Thornton buddy movie, and I'm tired of the character Thornton keeps playing. Happily Thornton is not on screen much. This is John Cusack's movie and he has created an interesting, unhappy man looking for a way out. Oliver Platt, who steals every scene he's in, provides comic relief and story exposition.

Director Harold Ramis introduced the film and did a Q&A afterwards. He talked about how the snowstorm in the book became an ice storm because that's the weather they had to work with. He talked about the many ideas Cusack and Platt brought to their characters. New to me was Connie Nielson, originally from Denmark. Ramis said she told him she was channeling Jessica Rabbit in the part of the femme fatale. I think she succeeded. Kudos also to Pulitzer-prize winning author Richard Russo and Robert Benton for a snappy script.
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Icy-cold humor, warmly recommended
Vomitron_G29 January 2006
When the name Harold Ramis is mentioned, a lot of people will probably say "Harold who?". When explained to those people that he directed the wonderful romantic comedy GROUNDHOG DAY and wrote the screenplays for GHOSTBUSTERS I & II, they'll probably say "Oooh, that Harold!". After the redundant De Niro-wrecks ANALYZE THIS & THAT it got a little quiet around Ramis. Now he's back with THE ICE HARVEST, a movie that somewhat differs from his other work. It's been a while since I've seen such a successful mixture of black comedy and film-noir/thriller.

Charlie (John Cusack), a Kansas attorney on the verge of a burn-out, and his associate Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) have just stolen 2 million $ from their boss on Christmas Eve. They're planning on leaving that same night to enjoy their money elsewhere. Charlie also is in love with the beautiful stripclub-owner Renata and hopes that his newly earned dollars will make a fine argument to persuade her to go with him. But an upcoming ice storm makes it very difficult to leave the town immediately. On top of that, a mysterious figure has arrived in Wichita informing all over the place about Charlie. It will turn out to be a night full of surprises where everyone seems to be playing dark and deceiving games.

This movie relies on the statement "Money is the root of all evil". It's slightly disturbing to see how far one will go when a considerable amount of money is involved. Maybe not all of the twists and turns in the plot are unpredictable, but there are enough of them to keep it interesting, all this at a fairly high pace. They provide enough enjoyable moments, with the trunk-scene as one of the highlights. This particular scene leads to a funny discussion between Charlie and Vic about a Mercedes and a Lincoln. All this in order to say that the script and dialogues are more than decent.

Cusack and Thornton deliver the goods, never over-acting it. Besides them there's also a striking performance by Connie Nielsen as femme-fatale Renata and I never thought that a completely drunk Oliver Platt, as Charlie's drinking buddy, could be so hilarious. And it was nice to see Mike Starr and Randy Quaid in some smaller roles. So the complete cast pulls it off quite good.

Maybe THE ICE HARVEST (with the appropriate tagline "Thick Thieves. Thin Ice.", by the way) isn't a movie for a wide audience, because of the grim & black humor and the occasional pretty violent outbursts. But it sure is a welcome alternative for mainstream movies and highly recommended for film-noir-fans.
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Seedy, moody, and enjoyable
IvanX10 December 2005
Maybe this really isn't a 9 out of 10, but at the moment I'm just really enjoying The Ice Harvest. I saw it for a second time, and enjoyed it more, once I knew what to expect. I can't think of as inaccurately marketed a movie in recent years. The trailers and posters made it looked like a caper comedy, and the quotes made it sound like this year's "Bad Santa." It's neither. As others here have said, it's a straight noir. Sure, there are some hilarious moments, but the film is not a comedy. It's dark, slow, and character driven, with John Cusack exhibiting his very best wry understatement. It's his core of sweetness -- never overtly revealed, but always present -- set against the oppressive bleakness of a rainy Christmas eve in and around Wichita strip clubs and the sordid characters who meander in and out of them, that keeps the film in balance. Connie Nielsen, Billy Bob Thornton, Randy Quaid, and Oliver Platt all turn in perfectly tuned performances, but Cusack, with his low-key, mesmerizing timing, is the center.

Anyway, if you're looking for a fast-moving comedy, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a black, mostly unredeeming movie with great performances and bone-dry wit, The Ice Harvest might be for you.
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Loved it!
jwtw1 November 2005
I also saw this film at the Virginia Film Festival, but I must disagree with the other fellow who wrote it up. I loved it. I'm not a huge Cusack fan, but I have to say he does a great job carrying this small, gritty, character-driven film. And I thought Oliver Platt was great throughout. It's a terrific script, too, co-written by none other than Robert Benton. Kudos to Harold Ramis for having the guts to make this indie film! Is it commercial? Is it going to make a lot at the B.O.? No, it's not. It's another WONDER BOYS. It's another BIG LEBOWSKI. It's another CUTTER'S WAY. It's another NOBODY'S FOOL. Won't make money, but who cares... It was a delight to watch and I'm sure I'll see it again on a big screen and own it on DVD.
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Love this movie and the way it was written
UniqueParticle5 March 2020
Not for everyone but great dark comedy with a wonderful cast! I really like the cinematography quite comforting. Event though it's a Christmas movie I think The Ice Harvest is great anytime of year. Great soundtrack to such a wild movie plus the lighting is awesome all around fun!
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Black comedy at its best!
motorheadkillsall29 January 2006
I just returned from viewing "The Ice Harvest" at a dollar movie theater, and I have to say it is one of the best movies I have seen this year. John Cusak and Billy Bob Thorton are perfect together. The film relies on slapstick comedy to deliver the laughs as opposed to lame quirky one liners which plague so many comedy movies today. Oliver Platt provides most of the comic relief, and it is great to see Randy Quaid in a new movie. The film is a perfect stab at the film noir genre. I recommend this movie to anyone who likes any of the actors, or just want a nice late night movie. More than likely, you will walk away satisfied.
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Surprisingly Good
seymourblack-18 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Probably because its style is so low-key, "The Ice Harvest" is one of those movies that doesn't arrive with any high expectations and so makes a big impact when you discover how good it actually is. Its plot about the complications that set in after a seemingly perfectly-executed heist, doesn't sound particularly original (and of course it isn't) but a group of totally untrustworthy characters, a series of neat twists and plenty of dark humour combine together to make this a movie that's hugely enjoyable from start to finish.

On Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and his partner-in-crime Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) successfully relieve their employer of more than $2 million. Unfortunately, their employer is Kansas City crime boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid) who very quickly recognises who was responsible for the theft and dispatches one of his henchmen, Roy Gelles (Mike Starr) to hunt them down. Charlie and Vic's plan to get out of Kansas immediately after the heist has to be put on hold when an ice storm suddenly envelops Wichita and the two men decide to split up until the road conditions improve.

Charlie goes to a strip club called "The Sweet Cage" where he meets up with its sexy proprietor, Renata Crest (Connie Neilsen). He's infatuated by her and so when she tells him she wants to recover a photograph of a local councilman pictured in circumstances that could potentially cause him tremendous embarrassment, Charlie agrees to help out. He gets anxious when he twice sees a large man making enquiries about him and so, after recovering the photograph for Renata, goes to a restaurant to warn Vic who seems completely unconcerned. As he starts to leave the restaurant, a member of staff asks Charlie to take his friend Pete (Oliver Platt) home because he's extremely drunk.

Pete is married to Charlie's ex-wife and so taking him home leads to an uncomfortable meeting with her, his children and her parents. Later, he takes the photograph to Renata at her club but then has to go on to help Vic when he finally recognises what danger he's in. A whole series of violent developments then follow.

Charlie Arglist is an interesting character because his experiences in life have left him world-weary, disillusioned and cynical but despite this, his essential decency leads him into helping others, even when doing so is obviously not in his own best interest. John Cusack's expressions, demeanour and skill in delivering his witty dialogue are very effective in conveying his character's complexities in a way that's both understated and highly entertaining. Billy Bob Thornton and Connie Neilsen are both well-cast in their roles and Oliver Platt is outrageously funny as Charlie's friend who enjoys intoxication because it distracts him from the lack of respect and enjoyment that he derives from the rest of his life.

"The Ice Harvest" is well-paced, sleazy and often violent but its strongest elements are its interesting characters and its wonderful humour.
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If You Liked Fargo And Grosse Point Blank, You'll Like The Ice Harvest
FMACDONALD28 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Ice Harvest is promoted as a comedy. It is but it's extremely dark. The film is directed by Harold Ramis (Analyze This, Analyze That) who is best known as Egon in the film Ghostbusters. Ramis knows how to make a funny film. If you don't believe me see Analyze This and the follow up, Analyze That with Robert DiNeiro and Billy Crystal. It stars John Cusack (Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, Grosse Point Blank) who is out of his Must Love Dogs phase and back to doing what he does best, dry humor. It also stars Billy-Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, Armageddon, Sling Blade) who doesn't do a whole hell of a lot for me as a serious actor but is great in comedies. See Bad Santa, the most offensive movie ever made, and tell me he's not funny. With these three names on the list it looks like you got a great recipe for the perfect comedy right? Well that is what surprises me about The Ice Harvest. It's more serious than funny. At times I felt like I was watching Pulp Fiction II (No don't worry that's not in the making). Cusack excels and steals every scene he's in. Especially a scene involving himself, Thornton, and a trunk. Thornton has a smaller role than I thought he would. After all he's billed as one of the stars. Every drop dead, funny as hell, scene comes from Oliver Platt (The Three Muskateer's, Lake Placid) who has great on screen chemistry with Cusack. The plot is fairly simple Cusack and Thornton have just stole over two million dollars from a mob boss in Witchita Falls, Kansas. The mob boss (Randy Quaid from The National Lampoon's Vacation Movies) is not to happy about this. Cusack and Thornton are planning to leave town the next day, which happens to be Christmas Day. The problem is Cusack is nervous as hell and paranoid that everyone is watching him, while Thornton is calm, cool, and collective. The Ice Harvest is entertaining as hell and a fun movie. However it most likely will not last to long at the box office, not only being the type of movie it is (a dark comedy) but it has to go up against heavy hitters like Harry Potter and Walk The Line. However it's entertaining as all hell and a different type of a movie for Ramis. While The Analyze films were dry humor they were not nearly as violent as The Ice Harvest. The film has a serious Fargo (I loved that film) feeling to it, and at times I almost want to call Cusack's character Martin Blank, it's got such a Grosse Point Blank feeling to it. The Ice Harvest, in my opinion will join Better Off Dead, and Grosse Point Blank as one of Cusack's best films. He is a natural at dry humor and this is the perfect role for him. Like Bad Santa a few years ago this has the very anti-holiday cheer feeling to it. However where Bad Santa was down right hysterical The Ice Harvest is down right violent. Not a film for everyone, but a darn good flick. On a scale of 10 I give The Ice Harvest an 8. "As Witchita Falls, So Falls Witchita Falls". See the film to understand that statement.
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A Stunning Movie from a Classic Genre
skyreid24 November 2005
My only issue with this movie is that it is billed as something completely different than it is.


And at that, it is fantastic. This is, in fact, one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. The acting is fabulous, the plot is engrossing, and some of the philosophical issues brought up by John Cusack (as Charlie Arglist) add depth to the plight of morality.

No, this is not a basic crime-flick, as the ads seem to be suggesting. This is a throw back to the classic film noir style, presented perfectly by a superb cast with heavy overtones of moral quandaries and multiple (if occasionally predictable) plot twists. Here's to the hope that this will bring back the classic genre which seems to have disappeared in modern cinema.
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Tepid and unfocused caper
funkyfry4 January 2009
While I was never bored by this film, ultimately it failed to come together in any kind of a compelling fashion. Basically, it's a heist comedy with some really rough dialog and violence added in to make the whole thing seem important or heavy. Despite all the blood and so forth, it ends up being a rather silly buddy comedy. John Cusack fails to give a performance that would generate any great interest or sympathy, and Oliver Platt gives a performance that is awful, studied, and unfunny, pretty much ruining any chance of the film being particularly good. The writing is enough to betray Lara Phillips and Billy Bob Thornton (who seems to do every caper film these days, good or bad) without any help from the actors, because their characters are completely predictable.

I have little else to say here about it. I would have rated it even lower, but I really enjoyed the brief scene with Randy Quaid as a menacing mobster who feels like a loser. He had more character in that 5 minute scene than anybody else in the movie did with much more time. This movie really offers no surprises, and would probably only please someone who had very little experience with caper films. It's like the sickly cousin of "Fargo." Avoid it unless you are a John Cusack completist.
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So so movie
iohefy-223 November 2005
I went to see a preview of The Ice Harvest last night, and knew nothing about the movie except for the stars John Cusak, (who I like very much) and Billy Bob Thorton. Well the acting by John Cusak was very good, and Billy Bob's role was nothing out of the ordinary. The surprise of the movie was Oliver Platt who was outstanding in his comedic role. I think the story was a weak one, continuing the slide of the writers in Hollywood now a days. With this movie I would suggest that you save the price of admission and wait to rent the DVD when it comes out and it should be soon. No wonder the movie revenue is down this year with the assortment of movies being turned out these days. What has happened to quality movies?????????
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Underrated Gem
vandalz25 January 2018
I saw this movie for the first time on cable, with absolutely no expectations going in, as I had not even heard of it before watching it the first time. One of Harold Ramis' better efforts as a director, with understated performances by Billy Bob Thornton, John Cusack, and Connie Nielsen, all working off a script by Oscar winner Robert Benton and Emmy nominee Richard Russo.

John Cusack stars as Charlie Arglist, a morally compromised lawyer who has joined with strip club owner Vic Cavenaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) to steal 2 million dollars from a local mob boss, and black comedy hilarity ensues. Connie Nielsen is ice-cold Renata, and Oliver Platt adds much needed comic relief as Charlie's hapless sidekick, the current husband of Charlie's ex wife.

The shady lawyer, icy-cold love interest, and the mob-boss antagonist are all tired tropes, but somehow, the characters work in spite of that. Carpentersvillle, Illinois stands in for Wichita, on Christmas eve, and the frozen scenery is palpably cold.

It's not a 10/10 outing, but it's far smarter than many others, and if you like dark humor and noir thrillers, this one has much going for it. Solit 7.5 out of ten, I'll round up to eight stars because I was pleasantly surprised.

On a side note, Charlie says at one point "As Wichita falls, so falls Wichita Falls", which is a misquote of a 1980s Pat Metheny album "As falls Wichita, ,so falls Wichita Falls"
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A movie in search of a mood
anhedonia30 December 2005
I can't believe that Richard Russo and Robert Benton penned this screenplay. Maybe their script was much better than the final product. Because Harold Ramis completely botches this film, not knowing whether he wants to make a comedy, black comedy, straight noir or comedic noir. He tries them all and fails miserably.

I'm not averse to anti-holiday films. I rather enjoy them, if they're done well. But to compare "The Ice Harvest" to, say, "Bad Santa," is akin to comparing my stick-figure doodles to a Van Gogh.

The film never is able to strike the right mood. The plot actually had potential and I always enjoy watching Connie Nielsen. Though, if you want to see what a tremendous actress she really is, avoid this piece of crap and rent the Danish film, "Brothers" (2004). Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Ramis tries very hard to find a happy medium between straight noir and dark comedy. Trouble is, even dark comedy needs to be funny. And with the exception of a broadly-played performance by Oliver Platt - he does have one very funny line delivered perfectly - none of the characters is able to find the humor beneath all this.

Cusack seems woefully out of place, probably desperately wishing he were in something as funny as "Grosse Pointe Blank" (1997) or as sinister as "The Grifters" (1990). His shtick gets tiresome after a few minutes and even Nielsen's sultry femme fatale (she does look awfully good, I must admit) can't rescue this film.

Ramis really does seem out of his league here. He's trying to venture into Stephen Frears or John Dahl country here and that's not his place. His direction is tepid at best; the film's pacing is terribly choppy - the story drags when it should get tight and twisty.

I was looking forward to seeing this film after watching the trailers. Too bad, the film never lived up to its potential. A funny, albeit dark, noir could have worked. But these chaps just didn't know how to pull one off.
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Very violent comedy
wwillems8 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Got to this movie thinking it was a comedy (a black one) but it turned out to be a very violent movie. I did like the story and Cusack and Thorton do a good job playing the two thieves. But the best acting was done by Pete (Oliver Platt) who adds some light to the grim atmosphere. The Ice Harvest also has some Fargo elements in it. A couple of sequences are really, really good. The part where Pete is drunk and decides to go home, together with Charlie, for Christmas dinner and also the part where Charlie thinks Vic is dead and goes to his house to find out what happened to him. The next ten minutes I thought where really worth the movie, especially the part filmed at the frozen lake.

7 out of 10.
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The darkest of comedies, hilarious.
Ozols25 November 2005
Just got back from seeing it and I had no clue it even opened today. I was expecting a dark comedy but damn was it ever dark, threw in a lot of death, violence, sex, guns, nudity, swearing, all that fun stuff. John Cusack was at the top of his game, great comedic timing, reactions, and yeah.. just great acting all around. Billy Bob didn't do anything for me, he was just a boring character, I guess I was expecting his character from Bad Santa, my favorite Christmas movie. I love what happens to him in the movie at least. As for Oliver Platt, he brought in most of the laughs from the crowd, he was drunk for the whole movie. Hilarious. Randy Quaid was just pure evil, played a great bad guy.. but he just wasn't in the movie enough. All the suspense in this incredibly dark comedy was in the scenes with him.

I won't give anything away, but all in all I loved the movie. While it could've been a bit shorter, it was really fun with hilarious scenes and grim deaths. Has to be the darkest comedy ever, or among the darkest. If you're a Cusack fan, don't miss it. Or if you just like dark comedies and Christmas movies, go see it.

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Excellent Black Comedy
JC4ME26 November 2005
Cusack is excellent with comic timing and deadpan delivery in this film noir. Platt's comic turn as an unhappy husband who imbibes a little too much Christmas Eve liquor is the perfect spoil to Cusack's wry, bland ex husband.

Connie Nielsen is understated as the Veronica Lake like strip club manager and is enticing and throaty.

Billy Bob Thornton is brutally funny as Cusack's sidekick in embezzlement.

Twists and turns along the way keep the movie going and you'll never check your watch.

A Must See that I'll be seeing again!
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One of the best movies of the year!
yeah_baby_59 December 2005
This may not be your typical Christmas movie but Bad Santa with Billy Bob Thornton was not either. However, the Ice Harvest perked my interest more than Bad Santa. It gave me two reactions during the film. I found it funny for one and for the other reaction it made me curious as to what was going to happen next. Since it is a black comedy not all of the jokes are laugh out loud funny but they will make you smirk or make you giggle during the film. I found the scenes with Oliver Platt quite amusing and one scene with Billy Bob Thornton that involves a golf club. This was a different role for John Cusack. I could not have pictured him as a thief in his other films. This film is great though. It involves both action and comedy for people who enjoy a little of both. This may not be your typical holiday movie but check it out. The Ice Harvest is definitely worth your money and is one of best movies of the year in my opinion.
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Dark-humored noir picture smart and entertaining
eichelbergersports16 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In the vein of the Coen brothers' "Fargo" and "Blood Simple," in which death and dying are all part of the fun, comes this newest release, "Ice Harvest," starring John Cusack ("High Fidelity") and Billy Bob Thornton ("Bad Santa") as a pair of inept but sincere crooks who pull off a Christmas Eve heist of $2 million in Wichita Falls, Kansas.

Directed by Harold Ramis, who has helmed such comedy classics as "Caddyshack," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze This," this dark-humored noir picture is smart, entertaining and holds up well, despite the blood-splatter and whiplash-inducing plot twists. It's part "A Simple Plan," part "Quick Change" part "Prizzi's Honor," but it stands up as a decent motion picture on its own.

Cusack is Charlie Arglist, a weak-kneed mob mouthpiece serving bloated, violent Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid), a mid-level boss who runs the small Midwestern town. Charlie is no one important in and of himself, but his connections gain him grudging respect from town sycophants likes cops, strippers, bartenders and others who want to impress his superiors.

Going nowhere and getting there fast, he, along with strip club owner Vic McLaughlin (Thornton), concoct an idea to steal $2 million from Guerrard the day before Christmas - which also happens to produce one of the worst freezing rainstorms in recent history. While Vic - a sleazy guy you wouldn't trust with 50 cents, let also a couple of million - takes the cash for "safekeeping," Charlie has to just play it cool until 5 a.m. Christmas morning. At that time, the two plan to split the Sunflower State and head for warmer climes.

Individually, neither man could perform such a brazen act as stealing this much mob money; Charlie doesn't have the guts, Vic doesn't have the brains. Together, though, they make a pretty decent combination.

As one would expect, however, things do not go as planned, and soon the whole scheme begins to unravel. It's at this point the bodies start piling up; but exactly who dies and what order, I will not reveal. Suffice it to say, though, it's not who we expect.

In addition, despite their best attempts at covering the crime, it seems just about everyone in town is in on it, a little matter which causes even more havoc and stress between the two thieves; as does the arrival of hit-man Roy Gelles (Mike Star, the hulking actor who played "Gas Man" in "Dumb & Dumber").

Cusack is appropriately cowering in his role of the indecisive,beaten-down lawyer with little to lose for the robbery, and not much else to gain in life. His low-key approach is perfectly contrasted to the bombastic violence and cockiness of Thornton, who has not been this maliciously delicious since "Bad Santa." Adding decent support is anger-plagued barkeep, Sidney (Ned Bellamy, "Con-Air," "Ed Wood") and Oliver Platt, as Charilie's best friend, Peter Van Heuten (Oliver Pratt, "Kinsey"). In fact, Pratt's work as a perpetual drunk is the best thing about this film. It's a classic inebriate and one which may (and I emphasize "may" here) just be enough to earn him a Supporting Actor nomination. It's one of the best drunk impressions since Lee Marvin in "Cat Ballou." Also along for a good-looking ride is Charlie's love interest, Renata (Connie Neilson, "The Great Raid"), another integral part of the ever-twisting story.

While Ramis' direction is fairly taut, the writing styles of Richard Russo and Robert Benton (the latter won an Academy Award as Best Director in 1979 for "Kramer vs. Kramer") shine as the dialogue is crackling good. Also singled out for kudos is the cinematographer, Alar Kivilo ("Hart's War," "A Simple Plan"), who uses the bleak, dreary, frozen Kansas landscape like a main character.

Like "Three Days of the Condor," you will trust no one in this film; and like "Hamlet," a great deal of the cast dies, but, overall, with smart puns to soften the death blows, "Ice Harvest" may be just the dark, depressing gift you're looking for this Christmas.
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Simple awful
mmoore3-223 November 2005
One of the worst movies that I have ever seen. I'm embarrassed that I did not walk out of the theater. The four men leads are some of the best actors anywhere now and should hang their heads in shame. I hope they were paid well. Cusack sleepwalks throughout the movie. Platt is a bad drunk. Billy Bob and Randy Quaid were wasted. Poorly directed and badly edited.

It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was supposed to be a film noir I suspect but it was just a film dreary. Not dark, just dreary.

Save your money. Don't let Hollywood get away with this garbage. Surely, someone can produce a film better than this.
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You are one optimistic Mo Fo...
june-sasser5 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is my Christmas movie. I did not like Cusac for years because he is not a leading man looking dude. However, after seeing him hold the screen in Grifters, Gross Point Blank, and this, one of my top ten, I now consider him the modern Bogey. Billy Bob is just Billy Bob. Nobody else that I know of could deliver the lines " He was depending on a level of affection and concern that just wasn't there" and "If you think you're getting out of that trunk, you are one optimistic motherf--er" with the savoire- fare that Willy Rob can. As another clued in individual stated in their great review, "It's a Wonder Boys, It's a Big Lebowski, It's a Nobody's Fool" If you've seen and appreciate these gems 'nuff said.
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