Directed by film legend Harold Ramis, The Ice Harvest is a great movie for the holiday season.
Ramis has excelled in just about every movie he has been involved in. Whether writing and starring in Ghostbusters, writing/directing Analyze This/That, or writing/directing Caddyshack, his talent is unquestionable. The Ice Harvest, which doesn’t quite have that signature Ramis feel to it, is still just plain awesome. A lawyer (played by John Cusack, in one of his better roles) swindles his boss out of $2 Million, and has to hold it together for one night so he and his partner in crime (played by the always excellent Billy Bob Thornton) can skip town. What follows are hijinks, strippers, Christmas carols, booze, and murder.
The film addresses serious issues and situations in such a light hearted way, you almost forget just how much carnage is actually going on. A large number of people are beaten or killed, often in horrible ways, but somehow all you can do is laugh. Most of their lives were in shambles prior to the night that the movie takes place, and this one evening makes most of their lives even worse. While the story focuses on Cusack’s and Thornton’s characters (who have excellent comedic chemistry), Oliver Platt’s character stole the show for me. His portrayal of a drunken man who cares deeply about his troubled life yet at the same time is super happy just to be alive got the most laughs out of me. His scenes with Cusack were the highlight of the film, and I wish they had more screen time together.
Visually the film has a fairly dark tone, as if the contrast was raised and the brightness lowered on your screen. Camera angles are fairly straightforward, and are reminiscent of noir films of the 40’s and 50’s. The overall “feel” of the film is somewhat similar to the 1998 dark comedy Very Bad Things. Sound design is overall well done, with excellent foley effects and satisfying “splats” any time physical harm is inflicted upon one of the characters. Characters in the film seem to have zero worry over being caught by the police, in terms of the atrocities they inflict upon one another. Murder is carried out with seemingly reckless abandon, forensics be damned. For me, this added to the humor of the film, considering most of the characters have a profession that is somehow related to law (lawyers), or run businesses that have to strictly operate within the law (strip clubs).
While not his best or his funniest film, The Ice Harvest continues Ramis’ contribution to the world of intelligent and amusing movies. This one flew under the radar, and I highly recommend that you give it a chance. At barely an hour and a half, it makes for a great weeknight movie.