Plot: What’s it about?
It’s Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas when mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and his crooked partner Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) decide to rob $2 million from their boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). It seems like it should be smooth sailing for them, but because of the icy roads, they’re stuck there for a little while longer until weather conditions improve. It’s understood that Vic will hold onto the money before the two meet up later to divide it up. To kill some time, Charlie goes to a local strip club where an old friend of his, Renata Crest (Connie Nielsen) is wise to what’s going on. She wants to run away with Charlie and the money. There’s a subplot involving Charlie obtaining an incriminating picture of a local politician. Charlie meets up with an old friend, Pete (Oliver Platt) who is drunk and acting obnoxious. Pete is married to Charlie’s ex-wife. Ice Harvest throws a lot at us to pad out the running time, but really it just feels like filler.
After two viewings, my thoughts on Ice Harvest are mixed. For long stretches, Billy Bob Thornton is off screen, but the film works best when it focuses on him and Cusack’s chemistry. When these two characters try and figure out their next move, the film works best. The film has a way of finding humor in dark situations and otherwise mundane conversations. Unfortunately it doesn’t have enough of these moments. It seems stuck in neutral much of the time and never really gains steam. This is all the more frustrating with so much talent involved. The film isn’t a total loss, but I just ultimately find it more of a mixed bag than anything else.
I’m a fan of the cast, but Cusack does seem like the wrong fit here. He’s just too passive and lacks the energy that the role requires. Thornton does fine, but he has too few scenes to overcome the rest of the problems. If the film had more of a focus then it might’ve been more successful. I like the idea of two guys who get in over their heads, but it just doesn’t play as well as it should. The short running time still feels padded with excessive bits that we just don’t need. I wanted to enjoy it more than I did, but Ice Harvest remains a frustrating experience.
Video: How’s it look?
Set during a bad ice storm and mostly indoors in darkly lit rooms, the transfer still serves the film well. Details on the actor’s faces are strong on the HD format as well as interior shots. There is some bloodshed in the film which is nicely defined here. The print didn’t show any noticeable flaws and details remained evident throughout. We’re given an AVC encoded, 1.85:1 transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track serves the film just fine. It’s mostly scenes of dialogue, but there’s the clarity I expect. We do get some more intense action scenes where things are kicked up a notch. Whether it’s inside a bar with plenty of banter or two characters talking, this track works well. I feel fans will be pleased with the results here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Harold Ramis provides a track for the film. It’s a decent track, but pretty by-the-books.
- Cracking the Story – A 17 minute feature with interviews from novelist Scott Philips and screenwriters Robert Benton and Richard Russo. A lot of good tidbits are seen here, making this feature worth a look.
- Beneath the Harvest – A pretty basic behind the scenes look at the film.
- Ice Cracking: Analysis of a Scene – This is a short breakdown of a key scene late in the film and how it was accomplished.
- Alternate endings – We get 2 here, but I still prefer the theatrical to this one.
- Outtake – Here is an amusing outtake featuring Billy Bob Thornton doing an impression of his character from Sling Blade.
- Reversible Art – Not really a feature, but I do enjoy having two cover arts to choose from
The Bottom Line
While I don’t mean to come down too hard on this film as it does have its moments, I just couldn’t quite warm up to it. I think something just isn’t right here. Maybe with a tighter screenplay or more focused direction, it would’ve been more successful, but it too often feels stuck in neutral, making it more of a mixed bag. For fans of the film, this disc does present it well, with some solid features. They’re carried over from the DVD release, but still of good quality.