In a room at the Regency Hotel, myself and 10 other representatives from college radio and newspapers had the opportunity to ask John Cusack questions about his latest film “The Ice Harvest,” directed by Harold Ramis.
“The Ice Harvest” takes place over 12 hours in Wichita, Kansas on Christmas Eve, with Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), an infamous mob lawyer, and his sleazy associate, Vic Cavanaugh (the always sleazy Billy Bob Thornton), embezzling over $2 million dollars from Kansas City bank boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid, although I would have preferred Dennis).
Throughout the course of the film, we meet Renata (Connie Nielson), owner of one of the many Wichita strip clubs Charlie frequents, as well as Pete Van Heuten (Oliver Platt), Charlie’s old-time drinking buddy who provided some of the only funny lines in the film.
But then again, Oliver Platt is always funny. Hijinks and mishaps ensue (of course!), but sadly, none of these drew laughs from the crowd.
Harold Ramis and John Cusack, however, felt differently about their film.
“It’s a movie about the unrealistic male stereotypes put on males in today’s society,” Ramis said. “Charlie is a man who finds a hard time living up to his role in society, has a hard time doing what is right. The worst part is that he has no meaning in his life, no sense of direction. But he’s human, like anyone else. He makes mistakes, and in this case, some big mistakes. “
“Setting this film during Christmas really added to the whole feel of it,” Ramis added. “This is the anti-Christmas film. It is definitely not the feel good movie of the year, but we’re not trying to make the feel-good movie of the year.”
Cusack added that they were trying to appeal to the “Bad Santa audience.” Both films feature Billy Bob Thornton ruining the spirit of Christmas, and both emphasize violence and debauchery, but “The Ice Harvest” had something missing: the jokes. “Bad Santa” was a dark comedy that was actually funny. “The Ice Harvest” was just dark.
When asked what he feels about the current lack of interest in the movies, Ramis stated that “it’s a reflection on the fact that most of the movies out there are bad. People can stay home and watch better stuff on their TVs or on their cell phones, and for a lot less. The only movies that are going to get hurt by the decline in interest are the mediocre ones, because thankfully people still have the ability to recognize well-made films.”
I have a feeling “The Ice Harvest” is just one of those mediocre films that is going to suffer from the audience’s lack of interest.
Let me cut to the chase-I sat through this entire film and lightly chuckled around six times, max. There were more shootings than laughs, and even those were uneventful. John Cusack is always lovable, and just his sheer being on screen helped make this film tolerable. Billy Bob Thornton is always good as the shady character, too, but his time on screen was too brief to really save the movie.
It was a dark comedy that wasn’t funny, a supposed thriller that was hardly shocking, and I left this film with the idea that the whole thing fell flat.
All in all, “The Ice Harvest” was one film that just left me cold.
If you want a dark Christmas comedy, save yourself the time and money and rent “Bad Santa” for its laughs instead.