Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Christmas heist goes wrong

The Ice Harvest (2005)
Starring: John Cusack, Oliver Platt, Billy Bob Thornton, and Connie Neilsen
Director: Harold Ramis
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A mob lawyer and a pornographer (Cusack and Thornton) steal 2 million dollars from the biggest crime-boss in Witchita, Kansas on Christmas Eve. What they hoped would be a few hours of laying low before their flight out of town instead turn into a night of chaos, mistrust, disposing of bodies, and double-crosses.

"The Ice Harvest" manages to walk the line between comedy and the feel of a classic film noir drama. It manages to bring in plenty of laughs (and a nice dollop of slapstick) without causing the film to devolve into a spoof; the characters and the events unfolding remain deadly serious, even if some of the situations that arise are darkly humorous. (I wonder what the car makers thought of the discussion regarding BMWs vs. Lincolns in relation to trunk space for dead bodies.)

The story moves along at a quick pace, with sharp dialogue, seamy sets, and fine performances by all featured actors. Most interesting is the overall blandness with which Cusack plays his by-all-accounts bland lawyer character is that although he is undoubtedly the star of the film, most scenes he shares with other actors have him more or less serving as support for their performances. It's an interesting position for a film's lead actor to be in, and I think it says a lot about Cusack that he is able and willing to play a character who mostly fades into the background when other actors are in the scene.

"The Ice Harvest" is a film I recommend to anyone who enjoys a crime dramas with touches of humor, and to fans of modern film noir.

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