Published Dec 01, 2005It'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 the kicker is these are not loveably naughty criminals and rakes, but damaging 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: a grim, wintry, Kansas-set morality tale that mercilessly punishes the morally lax and consequentially careless.
Admittedly there are problems with this, as it sort of negatively reinforces a conservative "go back to your wife and child" mentality that sits uneasily with my 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 exactly break new ground in its moral stance, it's the only Tinseltown effort to give you no line on "redemption," unless you count one token moment at the end. And if nothing else, that fascinating singularity makes it worth a look. (Alliance Atlantis)