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