The Ice Harvest (2005)

Genre(s): Comedy / Drama / Mystery
Universal || R - 89 minutes - $29.98 || February 28th, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-02-25

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Harold Ramis
Writer(s): Scott Phillips (novel), Richard Russo (screenplay) & Robert Benton (screenplay)
Cast: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielson, Randy Quaid, Oliver Platt

Theatrical Release Date: November 23rd, 2005

Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • 2 Alternate Endings
  • Outtake
  • Cracking the Story Featurette
  • Beneath the Harvest Featurette
  • Ice Cracking: Analysis of a Scene

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


Plot Outline (from DVD back cover): When lawyer Charlie (Cusack) and his partner Vic (Thornton) steal from a mob boss, they think the've pulled off the perfect crime. But when they race through a night filled with mayhem, lust and lethal surprises, they realize that the biggest risk they'll take will be trusting each other.

This review contains SPOILERS
The Ice Harvest is a dark comedy/crime-thriller that, in my view, you either get or you don't, not much room in the middle. I never got involved with the film primarily because I didn't find much of it that entertaining on any level. My enjoyment in seeing John Cusack playing the same kind of character -- shy, introspective and self-doubting -- has diminished. How many more times will he play that guy? Instead of going to see yet another movie with a character like that, I can rent High Fidelity or Pushing Tin (also co-starring Thornton).

The other problem I had wasn't really with the story, but the great cast. Despite being billed second, Billy Bob Thornton appears in maybe half of the 89-minute run time, which is a shame as I had more interest in who his character was than about Cusack. Also, Randy Quaid, a solid enough supporting actor, makes what seemed like a cameo with barely 5-minutes all told. This isn't grounds for not liking a movie, just to point out the waste in talent. Along with Cusack, Thornton and the lovely Connie Nielson, Oliver Platt provides a show stealing performance as Cusack's drunken friend and his ex-wife's new husband.

Normally at this point, I'd mention the good about a movie as most films I didn't care for do have something to offer... I honestly can't recall anything in particular about this that was very special (although I can admit Charlie's character development is half-way interesting). When the back-story -- in this case, a $2 million robbery -- is more fascinating than the actual plot, the film is in trouble.

It's not to say The Ice Harvest is bad or completely worthless, just absolutely average despite the casting of Cusack and Thornton, two actors known for taking unusual or unique roles outside the mainstream. On the other hand, perhaps I'm not as cynical as I thought and failed to appreciate this kind of dark humor.


Even though this isn't chock full packed with features, there's still a decent amount to rummage through despite a low box office take.

Director Commentary - Veteran director Harold Ramis (director of the comedy classic, Groundhog Day) gives informative and consistent commentary on his experience with the making of The Ice Harvest along with his explanation on the difference between Hollywood and independent films. Although he would've benefited from another person to talk with, he does fine on his own.

Alternate Endings (SPOILERS) - There are two alternate endings included, both are similar to each other with the second adding a flashback of Charlie suggesting the heist to Vic. These scenes are different than the theatrical version with Charlie, in the vain of this dark comedy, gets hit when the RV backs up and ends with him lying on the ground, blood spurting from his mouth.

Outtake - Billy Bob Thornton uses his Sling Blade character in a scene, which cracks up both Cusack and the rest of the crew behind the camera. If I remember correctly, he's done this on projects before providing some light-hearted humor (and it is very funny).

Cracking the Story - 15-minute sit-down featurette with screenwriters Richard Russo (Twilight), Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer) and "The Ice Harvest" author Scott Phillips. The trio chitchat about taking the novel and turning it into a screenplay (even though Phillips' initially felt it couldn't be translated to the big screen). While the disc does include a commentary track with director Ramis, another one with these guys would've been great!

Beneath the Harvest - Your typical behind-the-scenes featurette but there's some fun insight into making the outskirts of Chicago look like Wichita (even though, as Ramis admits, they've never seen) as well as some shots of Cusack at work in the pouring rain (and with a fever).



Picture: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and, given its dark nature, looks bleak, dank and overall dodgy in places. However, other parts of the film also look very good as Ramis gives a certain sense of loneliness or emptiness to this small town on Christmas Eve.

Sound: Nothing outstanding in terms of sound but the norm. The disc offers a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (also available in French) and since this is more of a talk movie (save for a gun fire here and there), you don't really need much. While there is depth when using your sound system, this is a film you can use your regular television speakers.


With a cast, that includes John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielson and (though a limited role) Randy Quaid as a villain, The Ice Harvest is certainly not a bad film, just one tailored for a certain crowd that I'm not a part of. In spite of my rating, I do think this DVD is worthy of a rental, if you like special features, for Harold Ramis' commentary and who knows, the cynic inside might show...