“What’s inside the trunk? Please don’t tell me
it’s another body of someone who hated our movie.”

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Die

It’s weird to watch a Christmas movie in March, but then again, “The Ice Harvest” is not one warm-hearted holiday pic. It showcases stealing, strip clubs, lewd drunken behavior, gruesome violence, and oh yeah, murder. The protagonist is Charlie, a “mob” lawyer who furtively robs his boss on Christmas Eve. He is played by John Cusack in a typical John Cusack mode. His co-conspirator is embodied by an oddity named Billy Bob Thornton. Considering it’s Billy Bob, you know there must be something fishy about the character – or maybe not. The other notable supporting player is Connie Nielsen, channeling femme fatale Laureen Bacall, circa “The Big Sleep.”

Here’s the problem with “The Ice Harvest”: It thinks interesting characters is enough to make a movie. It doesn’t go an extra mile to either give substance into the story or depth to its characters. The set-up was pretty weak. Charlie has already acquired the loot. The movie is basically him waiting it out, until the opportune time to jet. So he drives around from one character to another, pretending to be normal. These scenes, which make up the movie’s first half, barely drive the movie forward. Charlie seems like an aimless character. I got the feeling that something better is happening off screen. I was stuck with the POV of a person who has no sense of direction.

The best thing about the movie is its attuned dark humor and is reflected in scenes where Cusack and Thorton are together. There’s one scene which involves the two men on route to dispose a big metallic trunk. It contains such a great blend of humor and suspense that I wish the movie could have sustained it throughout. Towards the end, the movie makes a fatal mistake. To mention it would spoil the movie, but let’s just say I couldn’t care less about the characters by the end. And I have a feeling the movie feels the same way too. Why else would the movie harvest capable actors and let them all sink upon stepping on such a thin-layered story. Just as winter turns into spring, and spring into summer, “The Ice Harvest” will no doubt melt and evaporate from my memory.

Grade: C

John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid, and Oliver Platt
Screenplay by
Richard Russo
Robert Benton
Based on the novel by
Scott Phillips
Directed by
Harold Ramis
Rated R for violence, language and sexuality/nudity