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DVD Review: The Ice Harvest


It's a dismal, snowy day in the town of Wichita Falls. Hardly perfect whether for Christmas Eve... or for stealing two million dollars from crime boss Bill Guerrard. And yet, they did it. Charlie Arglist (played by John Cusack) and Vic Cavanaugh (played by Billy Bob Thornton) have in hand a bag filled with approximately two million dollars in cash. Now all they need to do is chill out until tomorrow comes, until they can get out of town for good. Problem is, life doesn't always make waiting an easy task to get away with.

This is a dark comedy, filled with dark characters that are set against an intriguing crime story, where the crime has already been committed and now they just have to get away with it. The whole theft was Charlie's idea. Charlie might be described as a nervous fellow, but then again wouldn't you be if you just stole money from the mob, especially if you were the lawyer for said mob? Yeah, but contrary to what you might think, Charlie's supposed to be the smart one.

Vic, on the other hand, is calm, cool, and collected. He listened to Charlie's ideas for how they could rip off the mod without anyone knowing, and he's the one that put those plans into motion. Vic is a badass, a man who gets things done. And now he must get Charlie to settle down so as not to draw attention to themselves. Problem is, seems old Bill Guerrard may already know about the missing money... as Charlie spies one of Guerrard's boys asking about the pair.

Besides avoiding Guerrard's goon, all night long Charlie tends to be finding himself in awkward situation after awkward situation, and what's worse is that the same patrol cop seems to pull up on Charlie at the most inopportune times. And all that because Charlie's trying to help out his best friend, Pete Van Heuten (you know, the one who married Charlie's ex-wife), who has gone way beyond drunk, and trying to help out Renata, a woman whom he secretly (or not so secretly) loves, and trying to buy last-minute Christmas gifts for his kids.

The plot feels a lot like Quick Change, that movie with Bill Murray where three friends rob a bank but then after they get away with it the continually run into various problems which keep them from making their flight out of the country, and to safety. The style, however, feels quite different, like nothing I can really think of to compare it to. The dialog is often witty and usually pretty good, but so is the lack of dialog, the silence exactly when you need it, just characters and their reactions. This film just does a very nice job of setting the mood and sticking with it.

There may not be a whole lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but it is funny and engaging of to be quite enjoyable. I'd have to say it's definitely more entertaining than First Descent, which is the last movie I watched, but that being said, now that I've seen it I really have no desire to watch it again. My wife, on the other hand, would disagrees with that assessment, as she made clear that she would very much like to watch it again, so I guess this isn't one of the DVDs that I'll be giving away for contests. Sorry people!

The DVD has some nice extra features, such as alternate endings, an audio commentary with director Harold Ramis, an outtake with Billy Bob Thornton, a featurette called "Cracking the Ice" where the screenwriters and author of the book on which the movie was based talk about how they transformed the book into a movie, and a couple others featurettes which I haven't had a chance to watch yet, one called "Ice Cracking: Analysis of a Scene" and the other called "Beneath the Harvest" (which I think is a making-of). Dang, what a long sentence! Anyways, I would highly recommend this film as a rental, then you decide if you like enough to want to own it.

The Ice Harvest was released by Universal Studios Home Video on DVD starting February 28, 2006. It stars John Cu sack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Connie Neilsen.

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