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The Ice Harvest

This grimly comic crime thriller/gangster movie is the least-P.C. Christmas film since “Bad Santa”.   It’s Christmastime in Wichita Falls and human venality can’t be said to have missed a beat in observation of the holidays.   The town’s seedy strip joint milieu is reminiscent of an updated version of the Pottersville of George Bailey’s nightmarish vision; it’s presided over by nasty boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid) whose mouthpiece is mob lawyer Charlie (Jon Cusack).  

The action takes place over the course of a night which turns out to be one of those long, dark and of-the-soul types.   Charlie and co-conspirator Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) are trying to get away with having embezzled a huge sum from Guerrard earlier in the day.   Vic’s the guy with the stomach for crime, Charlie being of a decidedly non-thuggish bent.  
Meanwhile Charlie’s best buddy (Oliver Platt, the go-to guy to play dissolute lawyers) is having a drunken “I can’t do my life anymore” crisis/awakening.  

“The Ice Harvest” isn’t much darker than most crime films, really; it just appears so against the snowy holiday backdrop.   Though we’re rather used to this sort of irony by now, the conjoining of Christmas with murder, blackmail, greed and betrayal still retains bite.    

Interesting to see how director Harold Ramis has matured.   This is the man who wrote and/or directed such late-‘70s, early-80’s comic guy-movie fare as “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes” and “Vacation”.   Their nothing-is-sacred aesthetic informs this project; but whereas those films often seemed to be as much an expression of shallowness as a parody of it, here he offers what a “vulgar Marxist” might even say amounts to a cogent comment on the culture of consumer society.  

- Dec 17, 2005

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