A review of “The Ice Harvest” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for excessive violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

 

 

It’s not easy to pigeonhole this quirky comedy/thriller/noir mob piece that falls into place too little and too late.

The eminently watchable John Cusack stars as under-the-radar attorney Charlie Arglist, who insures himself a merry Christmas by embezzling a cool $2 mil from a Kansas City mob figure. His partner in crime is the sinister Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) whose plans for the take are shady at best.

While the money lies in wait Charlie dreams of skipping town with sultry businesswoman Renata (Connie Nielsen), the sharp-as-nails owner of the Sweet Cage strip club. As a steely ice storm envelops Wichita Falls Charlie makes plans to woo Renata while watching the back of his plastered drinking buddy Pete Van Heuten (Oliver Platt).

“Ice” is notable for its lack of a linear theme. Charlie deals with the sticky situations standard for a cold and fateful night but his intentions are vague at best. A bloody run-in or two with the local underbelly and an unfortunate encounter with Vic pepper the action but as the plot subtly solidifies the end credits roll on this Midwest slice of lowlife.

Cusack can always chew up the scenery and Thornton is gifted with his own peculiar charm but Platt delivers one for the ages. His classic Christmas Eve bender is by turns dismal and sidesplitting as he comes face to face with his greatest mistakes and tries to make amends.

Nielsen is a bust; a classy gal horribly miscast as a quasi-cheap strip club seductress. The violence is surprising and unexpected, gratuitously pushing the envelope for a black comedy. A mixed bag with saucy highlights.