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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Ice Harvest (review)

John Cusack as a neo-noir anti-hero? Hell yes: he’s been building to this his whole career. After 20 years of playing mostly gee, really nice guys — even that really-nice-guy hitman in Grosse Pointe Blanke — he’s dabbled a bit with the dark side, almost touching it recently in Runaway Jury before pulling back at the last minute. But now he’s done it, yanked the rug out from under us and left us to wonder just how far over he’s gone. Sure, this is a comedy, but it’s exactly the kind of bitter black burlesque that goes down real smooth at holiday time, when everyone and everything is so damn officially cheery that murder, betrayal, and general antisocialness seems called for. And it’s from Harold Ramis, harkening back to the wonderful sneakiness of his Groundhog Day and reminding you that Hey, that’s when we all started to realize what an astonishing actor Bill Murray was, and maybe a similar epiphany might be in the offing with regards to Cusack (Must Love Dogs). For here, he lets his shady, mobbed-up lawyer steep in a poignant awareness of the cowardice that drives him — or doesn’t drive him, actually: he can recognize when he’s being double-crossed, but he’s too big a wimp to do much about it. For all the evil — albeit wickedly funny evil — he does, including stealing $2 million from his strip-club-owner boss with partnership with a deliciously deadpan Billy Bob Thornton (Friday Night Lights), it mostly befalls him accidentally. And he’s smart enough to know that makes him doubly a loser.


MPAA: rated R for violence, language and sexuality/nudity

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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