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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Review: The Ice Harvest

Question: How do you put John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton in a movie directed by Harold Ramis and end up with something les appetizing than uncooked tofu? It’s a serious question because it takes special talent to ruin those ingredients.

The Ice Harvest tries to be a black comedy/crime caper in the same style as the far superior Fargo. It starts with a simple crime job that quickly grows complicated, is splashed with more than a touch of violence, and ends up with a respectable body count. But it isn’t funny and it doesn’t seem to have much to say about crime, criminals, or family.

Cusack is serviceable as a dirty lawyer, rotten ex-husband, and nervous criminal. Thornton is reasonably convincing as the town smut peddler and the vicious animating force behind the crime. But, really, who cares? The scenes with their respective families are so truncated as to seem to be afterthoughts and neither of them has that fun-loving criminal aspect that might encourage the audience to root for them regardless of their felonious activities.

People show up, people die, people occasionally do vaguely humorous things, and then the movie is over. Perhaps the problem is that this entire genre has been pretty well mined in recent years; it was hard to escape a feeling of over-familiarity with the characters, the plot, and the jokes. Or maybe the problem is that the script isn’t particularly witty or interesting. The worst possibility--and one that may, sadly, be spot-on--is that Ramis direction is pedestrian. The Ice Harvest really isn’t his style.

Whatever the cause, one of the only consistent bright spots in this disappointing film is Oliver Platt as a pathetic, loudmouth drunk. He’s the only character to get much more than a chuckle, but, given his limited screen time, it’s a sad commentary that he manages to steal the spotlight.

For a genuinely funny movie with a high body count, see Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. For a movie with more of a moral edge, see the superb and underappreciated A Simple Plan. But don’t bother wasting your time on the tepid, uninspired The Ice Harvest.

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I know this is going to piss off the people who love Being John Malkovich and Gross Pointe Blank, but John Cusack never recovered from the trainwreck that was Grifters.
I understand he didn’t want to be pigeonholed by Say Anything, The Sure Thing, and Better Off Dead, but he was good as the sweet-but-misguided young man, and when he tries to be edgy, he just gets creepy. In my opinion.

The one notable exception was High Fidelity.  Great flick, and he was great in it.

Well, except for the part that he...well, I don’t want to give spoilers.

on Nov 30 2005 @ 09:00 PM

I loved Grosse Pointe Blank.</i> The John Malkovich flick seemed a good bit overrated to me, though, and Grifters just sucked.

So I don’t precisely agree with you, but I would say that he did his best work when he was younger.

on Dec 01 2005 @ 09:23 AM

Gross Pointe Blank is not a bad movie.  I struggle with my opinion of it, because the scene where his house is turned into a convenience store is absolutely frikken hilarious.  And the movie also introduced the delectable Minnie Driver.  Not to mention being significant inspiration for my blovel that I haven’t started yet.

Still, I can’t say that I actually like the movie, because to me it is too funny to be taken seriously, yet too serious to be taken as a comedy.  I found the silliness of some jokes jarring with the seriousness of the topic at hand.  I found some of the aspects of his character not adequately resolved for the message of love/redemption.  In short, I feel like I got fed good entertainment nutrition, but it was in the form of a handful of vitamins and survival rations: not really satisfying.

Then again, I may have to watch it again, based on my more mature understanding of love, relationships, and life.

on Dec 01 2005 @ 11:14 AM

Being John Malkovich was an interesting concept movie.  It disturbed me, not just because it showed some of humanity at its worst, but because the innocent (John Malkovich) got screwed over, and arguably the worst person in the story seemed to get the biggest reward.  Not something I want to watch again.

on Dec 01 2005 @ 11:16 AM
Rae

I loved Grosse Pointe Blank* and The Grifters*, but have never seen Being John...*.  Loved, loved, loved* High Fidelity*.  Loved. It.  Hated Must Love Dogs*, and thought Identity* was actually decent, but found the ending disturbing.

I can’t understand his consistent hit-and-miss choices.

*That’s a whole lotta freaking tags....

on Dec 01 2005 @ 01:38 PM
Rae

disturbed me, not just because it showed some of humanity at its worst, but because the innocent (John Malkovich) got screwed over, and arguably the worst person in the story seemed to get the biggest reward.

That seems to happen in the life, sadly enough.

on Dec 01 2005 @ 01:40 PM

Exactly.
So why should my “entertainment” have that, too?  One of the functions of entertainment in our culture is to reinforce our sense of justice and order.
If I want to see people getting screwed over and rewarded for being jerks, I can just go to work.

on Dec 01 2005 @ 02:21 PM

All the same, The Ice Harvest is a decent book anyhow...check it out.

on Dec 04 2005 @ 08:11 PM
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