The Ice Harvest

In 1997 I was delighted by Grosse Point Blank, John
Cusack’s masterpiece about a hitman who finds himself (in both senses
of the phrase) at his high-school reunion. I loved that movie for its
action, its dark comedy, and a script that never stopped being
wickedly intelligent for even a second. I’ve been waiting nearly ten
years for Cusack to do a movie as funny and as plain damn

Ice Harvest is not quite that movie, but it will do
nicely until one comes along. Cusack’s character, Charlie Arglist, is
a mob lawyer who has connived with a co-worker to steal two million
dollars from their boss, the crimelord who owns the underside of
Wichita, Kansas. As the movie opens it is an icy Christmas Eve; the
two have bagged the money and plan to split for the tropics in the
morning when the roads are passable. The boss seems blissfully
ignorant that he’s been ripped off. All Charlie has to do until the
roads clear is…act normal.

But it’s Christmas Eve. Charlie has a million dollars in the bag.
He’s about to get out of town, leave behind the tag ends of a messy
divorce and a dead-end life of booze and strip clubs, about to
reinvent himself. He figures he’ll spend his last night in Wichita
being nice to his friends.

But for Charlie, nice is not normal. His belated attempt to behave
like a decent human being combines with his perfect heist in a way
that tangles him up in a web of deceit, betrayals and violence worthy
of a classic noir thriller from the likes of Dashiell Hammett or
Raymond Chandler. The movie starts out slow…but the character
studies of half a dozen people (Charlie’s drunken best friend, the
too-hot-to-handle blonde who runs his favorite strip club, his
accomplice Vic, the bartender, the strippers, and two extremely
dyfunctional families) are lighting a bunch of fuses, and when they
burn to their ends there will be hell to pay.

This movie isn’t quite as funny as Grosse Point Blank
was and in some ways is even darker, but it has the same
dead-on-target, never-miss-a-note quality in the script and the
dialogue. I enjoyed every second of it.

Unaccountably, this movie has been getting poor reviews. But it is
so much better than most of the bloated mega-pictures Hollywood cranks
out that there is barely any comparison. Eric sez see it. If nothing else,
it’s likely to permanently cure you of any desire to hang out in
strip clubs.

Categorized as Culture


  1. One thing I particularly liked about this movie, having been a child of Michigan and its ways myself was how the female there, the deejay could afford her own home and was apparently economically free to move about. Unfortunately, this is fiction. The way it really would have worked is that the girls house get blown up and she would be left with no place to go. I know, I lived there. It is built into the system that women are paid a sizable amount less than men. I spoke with one woman about how her parents could only afford to send one of their children to college. This inheritance went to the male as he would more than likely be responsible for a wife and children. The way it turned out, the daughter was a single mom raising her children as best she could with much less of an income and the educated son was intelligent enough not to get involved in that whole family scene. Put the lack of economic equality with the additional reward that never admitting mistakes give you and you have a big problem. Movies do not sell if they don’t make life look somewhat romantic and fun to live especially to those who have the money to make it popular. Watch this stuff all you want — I was entertained as well. It is fiction and it did well enough at the box office to justify it being shown over and over again. To identify with it though, one must look to see the discrepancies between the portrayal of the hit-man there and you as a hit-man in your own community.

  2. It’s a Christmas movie. It’s supposed to have a positive moral … something like “Don’t be bad,” or “Don’t steal,” or “Don’t pass args by reference.”

  3. I’ve been trying to kick my strip club habit. I’ll have to see the movie.

    Might be difficult, though. I live in Portland.

  4. The movie was fun, darkly funny in spots, with just enough slapstick to give a chuckle now and then – who can watch an entire movie set in an ice storm and NOT expect to see several ice-related pratfalls? My one complaint is the strip club scenes, with tits and ass exposed quite liberally, and nude dancers in the background. While the rest of the movie is a dark film noir I could watch with my 15 year old son, the nudity makes the movie a no-go. Why do all decent crime films have to include nudes, or strippers, or sex scenes? The bar scenes could have managed to have the girls shown only in costumes, without the extremely unattractive and non-sexy stripping.

  5. me, I think the unattractiveness of the strippers was part of the point. I marvel that the filmmakers managed to make gyrating naked women so utterly unsexy, and I think they did it deliberately to convey the sleaze and grayness of Charlie Arglist’s world.

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