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Another reason why I'm unlikely to visit Kansas

Posted at 4:20 PM on November 23, 2005 by Euan Kerr

"The Ice Harvest" will do for the Kansas Tourism Board what "Fargo" did for northern Minnesota. The new John Cusack/Billy Bob Thornton vehicle delivers lots of smart-alec one-liners, and a great deal of gore.

Cusack plays Charlie Arglist, a lawyer-cum-business agent working for a Kansas mobster who specializes in strip joints. Believe it or not, Charlie, who is smart but not very courageous, comes up with a plan to skim some of the profits. (Why does this always seem to happen? Do these people not look at the papers/watch movies/read pulp fiction?) Anyway, he hooks up with Vic Cavanaugh (Thornton) who lacks the brains but has the steely determination to pull it off.

(Well, at least I think this is the idea, we never actually get to see how they do it, and all Vic seems to do is drive the car with the $2 million in cash Cusack takes out of the bank.)

The scam starts well, and then quickly begins unraveling. Vic has the money. Charlie realizes he doesn't trust Vic, who has a violent streak. Then the mobsters chief enforcer turns up looking for them both. This is a story where everyone is a crook, and nothing is quite what it seems. And it's happening in an ice storm.

One delight in the film is Oliver Platt. He who plays Pete, a drunk friend who Charlie happens upon in a bar. Charlie agrees to take him home which leads to more confusion and more violence. Platt is one of the actors always worth watching. As Pete, his attempt to chat up an attractive bartender, even though he knows her very large boyfriend is sitting right next to him, is both hilarious and chilling in its portrayal of alcoholic self-destruction.

Director Harold Ramis makes Wichita look like a pretty sleazy place. And as the movie goes on it gets increasingly bloody. The movie is advertised as being from the team that made "Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day," which is true, but a little deceptive. There is a Coen brothers feel to "The Ice Harvest," but it's a little more "Blood Simple" than "Fargo." It's hard to root for any of the characters though, even Cusack's Charlie. If he is so smart, how did he get himself into this mess? It's all a bit mushy, just like the movie.

While I enjoyed watching "The Ice Harvest," I came out of the theater asking myself "Who would I recommend this movie to?" I never really came up with an answer.

November 2005
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