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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Cynical Xmas Story
by Betty Jo Tucker

The Ice Harvest brought out the inner poet in me. With apologies to Clement Moore, here’s my description of the film’s noirish plot:

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

And all through the town

Not a street was safe to drive on;

All the ice made Charlie frown.

He and Vic stole gobs of money

From Charlie’s mob boss Bill.

But if Bill finds out about it

They’ll be the ones he kills.

Just act normal, Charlie, says con man Vic.

And we’ll get away like good St. Nick.

Still, no matter how hard these partners try

Their not-so-best-laid plans go awry.

A pal and femme fatale get in the way.

Will anyone live to see another day?

You bet, and someone shouts while driving out of sight,

“A cynical Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Billed as a dark comedy, The Ice Harvest contains little to laugh at. But it’s packed with the elements fans of film noir enjoy -- sex, violence, money and betrayal. John Cusack (Must Love Dogs), who gets more handsome and better as an actor with each new movie, makes the most of his role as Charlie, an attorney involved in the theft of over two million dollars from his mob client, played by Randy Quaid (Carolina). Cusack endows Charlie with just the right combination of pessimism, longing and surprising concern for others. We can’t help caring about him despite his wrongdoing.   

Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa) portrays Vic, Charlie’s sleazy partner in crime -- a man who may or may not be planning to abscond with the loot. Adding to the conflict is boozy Pete (Oliver Platt from Hope Springs), Charlie’s best friend, who’s now married to his ex-wife. And, because every respectable film noir requires a gorgeous femme fatale, Connie Nielson (The Great Raid) joins in with a sultry voice and come-hither look reminiscent of Lauren Bacall in her early films.  

With such an outstanding cast and intriguing story, The Ice Harvest would be just as good or better without those obnoxious scenes of vomiting, its extensive use of offensive language and raunchy strip club pole dances. But, hey, if filmmakers want an “R” rating, I guess they have to try harder these days, and The Ice Harvest certainly earns its “R” designation.

If you’re tired of sugar-coated holiday entertainment like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Ice Harvest is the movie for you.

(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for violence, language and sexuality/nudity.)

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