The Ice Harvest (2005) / Thriller-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, and nudity
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid
Director: Harold Ramis
Screenplay: Richard Russo, Robert Benton (based on the novel by Scott Phillips)
Review published December 1, 2005

The Ice Harvest falls into the subcategory of a Coen Brothers film done without the Coens writing or directing.  It seems to be a genre that has been picking up steam recently, as the very Fargo-esque The Big White saw some limited action in Europe.  The Ice Harvest fares better than that misfire, but not really anywhere near the quality of the Coens at their peak.  Although the events that transpire will have you remembering the deliciously dark crime thrillers like Blood Simple and the aforementioned Fargo, these memories will probably have you itching more to revisit those classics, not completely satisfied by the imitation thrills The Ice Harvest throws at you.  It's passable stuff, but may be too dark and violent at times for some viewers to really see the humor of the situation, so it is recommended with substantial reservations.

The premise is simple.  Two sleazy men end up embezzling 2 million dollars from the kingpin of sleaze in town, and find their escape complicated by a variety of situations that come up, including their misdeeds being found out by the man they stole from, and he is none too happy. 

Although billed and marketed as a comedy, I feel the need to warn some viewers that The Ice Harvest is more of a thriller with dark comic touches rather than one that goes to tickle your funny bone.  In fact, most of the laughs are of the nervous, comic relief variety, used to temper the heavy doses of sometimes bloody confrontations that occur with increasing frequency as the movie draws to its conclusion.  Black comedy is always a risky business; when it works it is scandalously funny, but there will always be a portion of the audience that just doesn't find humor in it, and consequently, they will absolutely abhor it.  To those that may choose to see this film based on my recommendation, let me just say, you have been amply warned.

Although technically it is a Christmastime tale, this is as grisly as it gets in that regard, for populist fare anyway.  Good performances and some interesting characterizations are the highlights, although it's the kind of tale that feels a bit overdone, especially if you've seen a noir film or two in your lifetime.  This one's for genre fans, primarily aimed at cynical viewers that enjoy their thrills sleazy and their comedy ice cold and pitch black. 

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo