johnlink ranks THE ICE HARVEST (2005)

For no particular reason, John Cusack has come up quite a bit in conversation lately. Whenever that happens, it is only a matter of time before that works its way into the blog. If I had to guess I would have thought a Cusack sighting would take the form of either GROSSE POINTE BLANK or HIGH FIDELITY, two superb Cusack films. Instead, here we are with this little 2005 dark-comedy starring Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.

I watched THE ICE HARVEST (2005) on 8.23.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since the DVD release.

The story is unique in that it starts with a heist, and the content really concerns the two thieves Charlie (Cusack) and Vic (Thornton) waiting out the Christmas Eve night before catching a plane the next morning. The entire film takes place in those nighttime hours. Of course, a lot goes wrong.

THE ICE HARVEST runs 89 minutes and has roughly 20 minutes of really prime content. One of Charlie’s friends, Pete (Oliver Platt) gets very drunk and leans on Charlie to get him from place to place. The last ten minutes of these scenes are top-level dark comedy. Awesome stuff. Later, Charlie and Vic have a bit of battle of wills concerning a large piece of furniture, their cars, and some ice. This scene is also particularly effective.

Nothing about this movie is bad, but the two sequences of greatness can’t be matched by the rest of the film. This isn’t an uneven film per se, but it is not top-notch all the way through like some of Director Harold Ramis’ other works like CADDYSHACK or ANALYZE THIS or GROUNDHOG DAY. The acting in this is alright, but nobody other than Platt shines. Connie Nielsen is effective enough as the love interest and Randy Quaid has a quirky little cameo, but there is nothing inspiring happening here, outside of Platt’s drunkenness.

There are some nice beats within this film, and the dark humor is appropriately sinister. Some nice little twists gets tossed at the audience, but nothing too crazy or dangerous. I remember liking this film the first time I saw it. Seeing it a second time, I still like it. However, I also see why it isn’t wholly memorable. Everyone gives an effort, noone mails it in, but the whole never fully comes together.

It’s as if this movie never really finds an identity. It is not really a heist movie. Not really a mobster movie. Not really a redemption story. Charlie is our protagonist, but he isn’t even close to being Cusack’s best anti-hero. He just sort of exists. I know some people hate Cusack, and this is the sort of performance I am sure they would point to. Mopey and uninterested, he gives off an air of arrogance. I like the shtick personally, but I understand why some don’t.

There is certainly a place in the world for a film like THE ICE HARVEST. It leaves you thinking you say something decent, but it goes away. A few years later it can fill a void for a night as you watch something entertaining, leave satisfied, and have it all forgotten within a week. I could see watching this 12 times over the course of my life, never remembering it, and never feeling like I wasted my time. Is there a word for that? A phrase perhaps? I need to invent one. I’ll get right on that…





~ by johnlink00 on August 24, 2012.

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