Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Ice Harvest

“As Wichita falls, so falls Wichita Falls.” Only those who have been to either Wichita, Kansas or Wichita Falls, Texas, or, God forbid, both places, can grasp the bleak desperation contained in that statement. It’s the kind of desperation that would drive a divorced, mildly miserable mob lawyer like Charlie (John Cusack) to steal $2 million from his boss. He and a more hardened mobster named Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) pilfer the money quietly on Christmas Eve and figure on skipping town on Christmas. (Makes sense, because they say it’s actually easier to travel on the actual holiday.) That gives them a whole night to get into trouble and blow the whole thing wide open. Charlie tries to take one last shot at his crush, titty-bar owner Renata (Connie Nielsen), but she has her own agenda. Meanwhile, it turns out the Mafia didn’t get where they are by being stupid about money, so Charlie and Vic wind up with a hit man (Mike Starr) and the top dog himself (Randy Quaid) after them. Add in an ice storm, and hilarity and some raw violence ensue.
The thing is, this is a decent flick where nothing surprising happens. It is pretty cool when a guy locked in a trunk starts blasting away with his backup gun, but you already know that is going to happen from watching the trailer. Everything else is just what you expect in this type of noir, heist movie. It’s still pretty kick-ass, thanks to the awesome cast. Cusack, Thornton, Starr, Quaid, Oliver Platt; they all make this funny, violent movie a joy to watch. My only complaint would be the casting of Connie Nielsen, who is gorgeous as hell, but is more of a two-dimensional caricature of the “femme fatale.”
“The Ice Harvest” is about bad people fighting over money, and I don’t think there is a whole lot under the surface. The only philosophical aspect is when Charlie (Cusack) relays a story about how his alcoholic crook of an uncle and his upright, reliable father died within days of each other. This fuels his existentialist view that “it doesn’t matter what you do; the end result is the same.” By the end, as Charlie shivers in the cold, Kansas wind on the side of the road, you get the sense that he is rethinking that philosophy.

3.5 out of 5

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