The Ice Harvest Harold Ramis

It's rare that you see a Hollywood movie with the kind of irredeemable scum you find in The Ice Harvest. The most sympathetic character is a mob lawyer, played by John Cusack, who's just ripped off his boss. Others include the ruthless strip club manager (Connie Neilsen) for whom he has the hots, the partner in crime (Billy Bob Thornton), who proves to be a sociopath, and the alcoholic friend (Oliver Platt), who walked off with Cusack's wife. And these are not loveably naughty criminals and rakes but damaged villains who either don't know how to do anything else or are too thoroughly heartless to care. It's not the sort of thing you expect from the director of Groundhog Day, but there it is: it's a grim, wintry morality tale that punishes the morally lax and consequentially careless. Admittedly there are problems, as it sort of negatively reinforces a conservative "go back to your wife and child" mentality that sits uneasily with one's more liberal instincts. But though there's some shallow noir posturing that I could have lived without, it's a surprisingly sustained effort unrelieved by cuteness or unearned escape hatches. Thornton, in particular, is terrific, giving his monstrous character a chilling bite, and Platt's character has some unpleasantly accurate "misogynist jerk at bar" moments that will be all too familiar to his brethren's victims. Though it doesn't break new ground in its moral stance, it's the only Tinseltown effort to give you no line on "redemption." And if nothing else, that fascinating singularity makes it worth a look. Extras include a commentary by director Harold Ramis that's warm and on-issue, three remarkably interesting featurettes on the writing, the shooting and the breakdown of the frozen-river scene, two alternate endings and an outtake of Thornton in Sling Blade mode. (Alliance Atlantis)