Wednesday, April 26, 2006


The Ice HarvestJohn Cusack Directed by Harold Ramis
Starring John Cusack
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


If you’re dreaming of a black Christmas try putting this DVD in your player for a few hours of entertainment. But be forewarned: it won’t be for everyone. If you’re a fan of John Cusack (specifically if you really, really, really loved GROSSE POINTE BLANK) then you’ll probably enjoy the dark comedy flooding this film.

Harold Ramis steps outside his normal feel-good comedies (ANALYZE THIS, etc.) and jumps headlong onto the dark side. Having the look and feel of a Cohen Brothers noir film, Ramis chose to incorporate old themes (good-looking but flawed guy falls for even more flawed girl while trying to pull a fast one) but did so using an updated script.

The film opens with Charlie (Cusack), a lawyer for the local mob in Wichita Falls, stealing two-million dollars from “The Boss” and meeting up with his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton, BAD SANTA). They plan to leave the city in the morning but a horrendous ice storm hits town and life on the roads (and in general) becomes slippery and dangerous. A recurring poetic verse keeps popping up, too: “As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls.” Charlie keeps seeing it written everywhere. But who’s the author and what does it mean?

We quickly learn that Vic is as morally bankrupt as a person can get and has no intentions of sharing the ill-gotten funds with Charlie (are they really ill-gotten if you steal them from the mob?) But thrown into the mix is a beautiful femme fatal named Renata (Connie Nielsen, GLADIATOR). She runs a strip club in town but has an unusual attraction to Charlie, Vic and money. But which will win out?

When mob boss Bill Gerard (Randy Quaid, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) discovers the theft, he puts a thug named Roy (Mike Starr, KNOCKAROUND GUYS) onto Charlie and Vic’s tails. But when even that fails to pull Charlie and Vic in, the boss is forced to deal with the two thieves himself.

The karma here is as dark as dark can get, but also amazingly funny. When Randy Quaid waves his gun around at a few of the characters and complains that he should be at home with his kids celebrating “the birth of God”, it’s actually quite funny in a very irrational way. Worrying more about money than the message a holiday like Christmas is supposed to represent fills every moment of screen time. Are they that far off when compared with the message of modern consumerism in December? Ouch.

Watching the two additional alternate endings on the DVD made me thankful that they chose the theatrically released one; the other two were flat-out TOO dark. But the ending here will make you both laugh out loud and cringe.

This movie was universally panned by film critics, which makes me sad that they couldn’t see the humor associated with our counter-culture.

Oh yes, and the “As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls” verse. It’s fairly nonsensical, but only in a way that makes perfect sense. Understand? No. Watch the film and learn.

Click here for The Ice Harvest movie trailer!


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