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Awesome: 23.19%
Worth A Look44.93%
Just Average: 17.39%
Pretty Crappy: 5.8%
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8 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Ice Harvest, The
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by PaulBryant

"Merry Fucking Christmas"
1 stars

When the freezing rain poured down on Christmas Eve in the first shots of Ice Harvest, I thought I’d have a chance to enjoy its dreary story – I can identify with sodden Christmases – but 90 minutes later when I left the movie and stepped outside into nasty weather, I realized that a real Vancouver downpour was a far more welcome ordeal.

It starts in film noir fashion: John Cusack, plays a mob lawyer who steals two million bucks from a mobster, and plans to get the hell out of Wichita Falls with Billy Bob Thornton (partner in stupid-crime) and take it easy on a white sand beach somewhere. The catch: the freezing rainstorm has made the roads impossible to navigate, and so they must stick it out until Christmas Day when they can sneak safely away before the money is missed. Then it continues in comedy fashion: Cusack tries to avoid a snoopy cop car as he spends his last night in Wichita Falls, runs into drunk friends, pursues a gorgeous dame (Connie Nielson) whose got aces up her sleeveless blouse, and gets trailed by one of the big bad wolves he works for. The catch: it’s not really very funny, and the entire ridiculous plot could have been avoided if Cusack had just gone home and slept one off.

The film’s cheeky comedy tries to steady a ship that is lost in a sea of amorality. Every single character in the film is a complete fuckup or a useless waste of space. Nobody’s good, or even remotely good, except Cusack, who is only not repugnant because he’s John Cusack. It attempts to be ironic with obvious and labored one liners that are painfully overused and stupid, meaning you can virtually set your watch to the frequency with which an exasperated character exclaims, “Merry Christmas!” with sarcastic inflection.

There are numerous unfunny diversions from the main plotline (meant, of course, to be funny) wherein Cusack watches Oliver Platt, his ex-wife’s new husband, bumble around town making a drunken ass of himself hitting on waitresses and chomping on turkey drumsticks. Laughing yet? Then, in what is an awkward movie’s strangest moment, Cusack attempts to perform some sort of reverse Heimlich maneuver on Platt, in hopes of re-descending his right testicle (not making this up) which Platt discovered was somehow…ahh…internalized, during a brutal kick to the groin in a bar fight.

It’s worth noting that neither the testicle nor the bar fight has anything to do whatsoever with the heist story at hand, except to show off Platt’s amazingly bad impression of a drunken buffoon. Thanks very much fellas, could have done without it.

Cusack’s good, in that harmless, I’ve-got-a-sheepish-grin kind of way that has made him a star, but his character doesn’t make any sense. Why must he steal the money? why does he actually love the girl? why would he partner himself with a guy as greasy as Billy Bob Thornton? and how can he swig back quarts upon quarts of hard liquor in the space of a few hours and by the end movie still look like goofy, smiley, loveable John Cusack?

If this was noir, (and I guess it kind of is, what with the I-wish-I-could-be-Barbara Stanwyck femme fatale) then Cusack’s role wouldn’t be played by Cusack. He’s too likable; which is why it should veer towards comedy. But it doesn’t end up qualifying as either, it’s instead equal parts bad comedy and bad noir. It could have been a harmless, goofy, comedy of errors where all sort of things go wrong on Christmas Eve and hilarity ensues with sexy diversions and slapstick fluff. But that sugarplum vision gets pulverized when Billy Bob brutally murders his wife because she’s too fat and ugly (wife murdering always being an odd choice for a gag), and then leaves her corpse to drip warm blood on the presents beneath their Christmas tree. It’s here that it becomes a little hard to keep chuckling. Oh, and from the trailer, you’ll note that it is her corpse he later tries to cram into the back of his luxury automobile along with the other trapped prisoners he wishes to sink in the middle of Lake Wichita.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a black comedy, but there are lines that you just can’t or don’t need to cross when your making one. The reason Fawlty Towers’ “The Kipper and the Corpse” and Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry worked was because you saw little to no blood from the dead body, and the whole affair was rapt with the apprehension of being found guilty for a death that wasn’t the main character’s fault. With Ice Harvest, everyone is guilty of something harsh, everyone deserves what they get, and then pretty well everyone gets it. Ho hum. To me that’s a boring film. Worse, it’s a bloody, violent, boredom which, to further offend, gives every woman character the distinction of being one of the following: a stripper, a bitch, a useless ex-wife, a femme fatale who’ll stab you in the back, or a fat cow who you’d rather kill than live with another day.

You might say, Oh come on, movies can be gory and funny, funny and gory, it’s all based on how uptight you are. In theory, I’d agree. But when somebody is brutally murdered onscreen, (or in this case, several people) it jars a viewer in some way, no matter how funny the rest of the movie has been, and leaves them unsure of how to react. And that’s when it’s done well.

Think Very Bad Things; if you somehow liked that movie, then go ahead and catch the less interesting Ice Harvest, as it is quite a bit more tame. If you didn’t – and don’t worry, you had every right to detest every minute of it – then don’t bother, Ice Harvest will just frustrate and confuse you, and make you listen to 'Little Drummer Boy'.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13317&reviewer=364
originally posted: 11/25/05 04:35:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/24/17 JD Daynes The perfect Christmas film for anyone who's not feeling Christmas. I love it! 5 stars
2/24/14 Uowxoxqj Hemsley is one of the back of a binary options strategy coincidence to overlook., <a href=" 2 stars
12/19/13 Ken Markson Great film! It's poor showing must be the result of advertizing a comedy - which it's not! 5 stars
9/13/11 Tim Darkly funny and richly involving - too bad it didn't get better reception when released. 4 stars
12/03/08 Shaun Wallner Great Cast!! 4 stars
5/14/08 Matt Even the excellent Billy Bob can't stop this from being soooooo forgettable. 2 stars
5/08/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
3/30/07 fools&#9835;gold If you're too careful, you won't laugh, and you'll be bored, and that's why it's great. 4 stars
1/27/07 mets1986 Very underrated..Oliver Platt is fantastic 5 stars
10/17/06 AJ Muller well-done flick, dark laughs, great turns by primo cast 4 stars
7/05/06 Phil M. Aficionado Feel I should like it more because of the actors, but it suffers from genre confusion 3 stars
3/06/06 Monday Morning VERY disappointing work from H.Ramis. Wasn't good comedy, black or otherwise. 2 stars
12/01/05 The Don Johnson 60 minutes suck, 30 minutes are hilarious. Drunken Oliver Platt is extremely funny. 3 stars
11/29/05 soldi its ok but not so good not worth going to it in cinema just rent it when it comes out 3 stars
11/28/05 KingNeutron Lots of good dialogue, and a couple of shockers. 4 stars
11/27/05 Elizabeth S It's bleak, violent and filled with lowlifes . . .but I liked it! 3 stars
11/25/05 khalid30 ok 3 stars
11/24/05 Idiot_for_LMP Cusack as always stellar performance! Go See! 4 stars
11/24/05 baseball-nut I'd suggest John Cusack stick with the serious stuff, he's not a very good comedian! 2 stars
11/06/05 mahgoney ubelivably great 5 stars
10/24/05 Drew Ebanks 'Written by' category should include the novelist Scott Phillips 4 stars
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  23-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 28-Feb-2006

  03-Feb-2006 (15)


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