Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"The Ice Harvest" (2005) - Movie Review

Movie like “The Ice Harvest” could pull its viewers in with few actors’ performances of a very smartly written dialogue and then stumble towards a different story failing of course in doing so. There could have been some other story between Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and his drunken friend Pete (Oliver Pratt) and get the devious Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) to join in the fun without any blood spills. That is the film I would have wanted to see or that is the film the movie promised in the first two acts of it. Too sad to see it depart to come back to its actual venture in the start.

John Cusack is again the nice guy with an appetite for getting corrupted. He would do that making all right and still maintain his good man charm. He is a famous mob lawyer out here and as the tradition of dark comedy film, at the opening scenes he stands cold against the chilly wind to recite the lines so there to intrigue but not make much sense in hindsight. Having past that, “The Ice Harvest” jumps right into its grounds. Charlie pulled the big money out of the mob boss he works with the muscle of Vic. Smooth and clean. Vic advises Charlie to be normal and get through the night to settle in a better place before the rain begins to turn blood. Charlie does not do anything crazy but the normal actions becomes too much of a hint. He is a nice guy but he goes a little over the top and a hot strip club owner Renata (Connie Nelsen) grips on it.

If we clip off the final twenty minutes, then it is a film I loved. Charlie is not the action guy. He works for the mob but he keeps his hands clean personally. As the doubts get the better of him, he begins to call Vic and then meet him personally to clarify because there is the enforcer of the mob boss looking for them. Vic as the man with the guts settles him and Charlie is requested to be the designated driver for a friend, the drunk Pete. Here is the interesting detail which connects them. Pete married Charlie’s ex-wife. They both reminisce the times they were and how Pete is finding tough to cope with the life and wife he bargained for. Their part is the film I would have seen develop into. It does to tie the happy end. Corny and made up.

The suspense is unnecessary. Surely Vic is the dangerous man with unstable notions. He can pull the trigger without a trouble while Charlie is the middle class guy who indeed gets a chance to swindle. Charlie though knows the stake and while he remains cool as he could possibly be, the signs are discouraging his calmness. Cusack can be dark and likable with a strong black suit and red tie, almost a symbolism for the devil. Thornton does not need to be in the role of Vic if you ask me. Yet he does it and fills the shoes for a decent pay check I presume.

The most unnecessary character in the film would be Renata, the hot throb hope for Charlie to pursue things to turn around a new life. First of all, never dress a woman so hot and made up in a dark comedy. Next, never make her the crush for the protagonist who would do crazy things to attain her. Finally, never ever make her to invite the chump main man to come over and suddenly develops a passion for a night. The film does all of this faithfully and gets in trouble to settle for a below par finish up.

Harold Ramis had a good two act script from Richard Russo and Robert Benton adapting from the novel of the same name by Scott Phillips. There are running gags and reoccurring character which are not a brand symbols for a film like this but more of a traditional ritual being done for no reason. After a while we very well know when Charlie is alone what are the possible characters and phrases we would see.

“The Ice Harvest” is a funny film and often serious on itself. When it does both of those, it is a smooth sail. The characters know even if they are drunk on what they are talking and the relationship with each other begin to have a development amongst them. It is strange that the film’s main plot begins to suck the originality of the story. It is as if the writers after the outline began to think of something better between couple of people and kept on writing. Then suddenly they remembered the outline and took a “follow this if you are writing a wicked comedy thriller” book to finish it.

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