There's something about a dark, violent and offensive Christmas movie that sends me through the roof. I loved 'Bad Santa' and 'Die Hard' is my second favorite Christmas film (if you can call it that, I can) of all time. 'The Ice Harvest' looked very entertaining from it's previews and starred a talented group of actors including John Cusack (Grosse Point Blank), Billy Bob Thorton (Bad Santa), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), the hilarious Randy Quaid (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) and the even more hilarious Oliver Platt (Showtime's 'Huff'). 'The Ice Harvest' was even directed by the great Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog's Day). Yes, 'The Ice Harvest' had all ingredients to be a very decent black Christmas movie. In the first fifteen minutes of 'The Ice Harvest' I was sorely disappointed in it's quality, but by twenty-five minutes in, I enjoyed every dark minute. It is by far the most twisted Holiday movie I've seen (dark sh*t, real dark sh*t), but I was enthralled through the lot of it.
'The Ice Harvest' is based on the not-so-well-known novel. It follows big-time dead-beat dad mob lawyer, Charlie Aglist (John Cusack). Charlie decides he wants to make it big so with the help of a local Witchita goon, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thorton) he rips off his violent mob boss client, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). This all happens on Christmas Eve day, and he and Vic leave Witicha that night. All they have to do is act normal for 24 hours -- that turns to DISASTER! The two somehow get pursued by the mob, deal with a perky but wise bad-ass business lady Renita (Connie Nielsen), get the cops involved and somehow manage to get Charlie's ex-wife's new drunken dipsh*t husband, Pete (Oliver Platt) involved. It's going to be one hell of a night!
Like I said before, 'The Ice Harvest' is very slow during the start but really speeds up twenty - thirty minutes into it. The writing is solid for the most part (some of it is unbelievable), but the reason I liked it so much was because it was unpredictable. In the theater, I honestly had no clue what was going to happen next, and that is damn hard to find in a film now days. Harold Ramis does another great job directing this, and the cast is fabulous. Cusack and Thorton shine in their roles, Quaid is surprisingly perfect as a cutthroat mobster, Connie Nielsen handles her role okay for the most part, but the real stand-out is Oliver Platt. Platt is absolutely hysterical every second he is on the screen including a hilarious scene with him showing up drunk at his uptight parents-in-law's house for Christmas Eve dinner. 'The Ice Harvest' is enjoyable but it is nothing brilliant. It has it's flaws and displays them, but 'The Ice Harvest' wasn't meant to be groundbreaking, just entertaining (which it wildly succeeds in).
I was surprised to hear this was doing terrible in the box office. I think a lot of people would get a kick out of it, at least those who had the stomach for it. 'The Ice Harvest' is very violent, dark and sick and some of the more conservative and weak-hearted movie goers will find it's material offensive and pure rubbish. I personally loved it because it was sick and unpredictable. It was no Oscar contender, but it kept me on the edge of my seat. I haven't been on the edge of my seat in a movie theater in a long time. Thank you for another fun and quirky black comedy, Harold Ramis. Grade: B (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona, 12/02/05)