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The Ice Harvest (3/10)

by Tony Medley

This is a vile, foul, hateful film, masquerading as a comedy. But there’s nothing funny about it. It’s a nihilistic, bloody, violent, vain attempt at a humorous noir without humor. This demeans everything of value, Christmas, marriage, children, fidelity, honor, truth, and justice. No surprise it claims to have Billy Bob Thornton as a co-star, since Billy Bob starred in the disgraceful “Bad Santa” (2003). Maybe Thornton wants to make a career of letting us know how little he regards the biggest, most loved Christian holiday of the year.

But Billy Bob isn’t a lead in this. His role is little more than a cameo, so, if attendance is in order to see Billy Bob, the laugh’s on the audience. If so, it’s the only funny thing in the movie.

Charlie (John Cusack) and Vic (Thornton) rip crime boss Bill Gerrard (Randy Quaid) off for $2 million. Charlie is Gerrard’s attorney and a frequenter of strip clubs, one run by Renata (Connie Nielsen). She is so beautiful people stop looking at the strippers when she walks by fully clothed. Renata is the only character that could be seen as being intelligently drawn as a satire on all the hard ladies who came before her in real noirs. She speaks like Lauren Bacall and looks like a more beautiful, sultry Lizabeth Scott. Nielsen’s performance was the only thing I liked about the movie.

Charlie’s best friend is Pete (Oliver Platt), who is married to Charlie’s ex-wife, and is stepfather to Charlie’s children. He’s a drunk who drinks constantly but is never rendered incapacitated. Platt’s drunk is as bad a performance as a drunk as you’ll see. Charlie puts it down, also, but is never pictured as anything but stone cold sober.

The movie is totally devoid of emotion, except for the hatred felt for Charlie by his son. Nobody fears anything, even death, although Charlie does worry about Gerrard finding him, even though he does nothing any reasonable person would do to avoid him.

Violence is so marginalized that one is desensitized to torture and death. When someone is locked in a trunk after having his thumb torn off, nobody feels anything. Director Harold Ramis vacuously plays it for laughs.

It is never explained why Vic and Charlie are waiting around after they get the money, which is the opening of the movie. They’ve got it. Charlie gives it to Vic and then they wait around until morning when they are planning to split. Why not split with the money immediately? Isn’t that what any reasonable person would do? There is no reason given why they are sticking around. Of course, if they did split immediately there wouldn’t be a movie, which would certainly have been better for anyone who gets sucked in to buying a ticket.

 “Bad Santa” was bad enough. This is worse.

November 23, 2005