‘Ice Harvest’ is full of holiday jeers


By Noah Fowle

Like the ubiquitous Christmas decorations that sprout up before Thanksgiving, “The Ice Harvest” is the first, yuletide-themed film to arrive in theaters. Unfortunately, it serves only to remind us of the more shallow aspects of the most wonderful time of the year. A poor excuse for a black comedy, it wraps a barely-there crime plot and paper-thin characters in some obvious gags and holiday misanthropy.

At the film’s onset, Charlie (John Cusack) waltzes out of a bank in Wichita, Kansas and places a sack full of stolen money in the hands of his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton). The two have conspired against their boss and must now survive a cold and rainy Christmas Eve in town before stealing away with their riches. In a pointless voice over, Charlie explains that pulling off the perfect crime is “really just a matter of character.” Too bad no one informed Richard Russo and Robert Benton, who adapted the screenplay from the Scott Phillips’ novel, of this truism. Missing from the film’s plot is any shred of motive or explanation for why and how Charlie and Vic undertake this supposed risk. Just as unclear are the details of their oft-mentioned “plan,” which is thrown out of whack by an icy rain that drenches Witchita. Yet, even though he agrees to stick around to stay off the poor roads, Charlie spends the majority of the evening driving and skidding from one destination to the next. The film is rife with such obvious inconsistencies.

In his last few hours in Wichita, Charlie tries to reverse his reputation as a bloodsucking lawyer by tipping strippers, helping out old friends, and even paying an unplanned visit to his estranged children. As the night wears on, and the double crosses become more obvious and drawn out, the audience’s patience wears thin. Charlie’s continuous missteps provide time for a few snappy one-liners, and Oliver Platt shows up for some drunk antics. But Connie Nielsen’s tried-and-true conniving vixen speaks to the film’s overall lack of originality, depth, and humor.

More should be expected from director Harold Ramis, who brought us such gems as “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog’s Day.” But his latest work rings closer to his recent duds like “Multiplicity” and “Bedazled.” Fortunately, the film’s early holiday release and almost certain, quick departure will make room for better holiday fare.

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