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The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest has everything going for it. Harold Ramis is the right director for this sort of thing, his wry wit and biting sense of humor ideally suited for the dark, crime comedy this is supposed to be. It's got the right cast too. John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton teamed up for a Trapped in Paradise-esque, Christmas caper? Should be genius. It isn't. Here's the thing: it just isn't very funny. Instead, Ice Harvest is a morose, unhappy, sometimes depressing flick. It's not a dark comedy so much as it’s a miserable one.

The premise is all too familiar. Charlie (John Cusack) and Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) have decided to steal from their employers, the mob. Charlie is a mob lawyer, Vic heads up the strippers and porn division of mob boss Bill Guerrard's empire. Their plan? Steal two million and get the hell out of town before anyone notices. Well, maybe not right out of town. Instead, they decide to hang around for a few hours, for reasons understood only to them. There's talk of icy roads, but that doesn't seem to stop them from driving around town from location to location as a plot device to get themselves in trouble. Actually, take the plural out of that. Billy Bob Thornton isn't really in this movie. He's here for name recognition only. He shows up at the beginning, vanishes, and then reappears at the end to suck whatever life the movie has left right out of it.

In between stealing money and getting himself caught, Charlie hops between strip clubs and bars making a spectacle of himself even though Vic has just reminded him to lay low and act normal. Charlie bumps into his old friend Pete (Oliver Platt) and the movie comes alive for awhile so that Oliver Platt can steal scenes. Whenever Platt is on screen the movie's working. Whenever he isn't, it's flat out depressing.

The basic problem here is this: The Ice Harvest thinks it's a comedy and it isn't. It's not even a dark comedy. For the most part it's simply unhappy without purpose, meandering from one depressing stripper, drunk, or corrupt cop to another. The witty lines are too few and far between. The film's trailers herald it as this year's Bad Santa, and they're only doing it a disservice. Bad Santa is sick, twisted, irreverent, and depraved. The Ice Harvest is none of those things and instead kind of settles in on being flat out sad. There are some good moments mixed into director Harold Ramis' film, almost unavoidable when there's so much talent involved. But the script is a dud and there's not much anyone could have done to save it.