The Ice Harvest Review

Image for The Ice Harvest

A bent lawyer (Cusack) and his buddy (Thornton) have ripped off the Mob with an ambitious fraud, but they’re trapped in the small town that was the scene of the crime and prevented from making their getaway by an ice storm. During the night it becomes inc


For most people, Harold Ramis is still best remembered as the bespectacled nerd from Ghostbusters, but in fact he’s made more of an impression as a director, delivering hit comedies such as Analyze This and Groundhog Day. Here he turns his hand to something darker and more noirish, and while it’s by no means a catastrophe it’s never entirely successful either. Imagine a Coen brothers movie with their ineffable Coen-ness wrung out of it and you have just about the size of it.

The casting is initally attractive — John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton being two of Hollywood’s favourite bets — but far from the two-hander you might expect, this is Cusack’s movie, with Thornton often invisible. Cusack serves up that edgy, anxious earnestness he’s been making a living on since Say Anything, and makes a reasonable fist of playing a man increasingly baffled by the unravelling plan (though anyone having pulled a heist while simultaneously being in the vicinity of a smouldering Connie Nielsen and not thought the words “femme fatale” doesn’t get to the movies enough).

But Billy Bob is the more fun of the pair, playing a man with a penchant for sudden and often eccentric violence — his assassination of a man by trunk is one of the film’s standout sequences — and when, too often, he’s not around, there’s an easily detectable Billy Bob-shaped hole in the movie.

Robert Benton and Richard Russo’s screenplay trots along efficiently enough, delivering entirely predictable plot contortions and a couple of inventively odd scenes. They also boldly leave
the MacGuffin in the plot blank: we never find out how these two have managed to take their Mob boss for a couple of million. It conforms to the old Hitchcockian dictum that the exact nature of the plot primer doesn’t matter, it just serves to get things going — but it’s still a strategy that will irritate some. Yet possibly the film’s biggest mystery is the exact point of Oliver Platt’s presence as Cusack’s best buddy, as he manages to spend the whole of the movie either drunk or asleep...

A decent enough little B-movie which delivers some pleasingly weird violence and endless plot reversals. But there’s still a mild sense of pointlessness to the whole thing and the feeling that in different hands it could have been much better.