The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest Information

The Ice Harvest is a 2005 dark comedy-drama film directed by Harold Ramis and written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton, based on the novel of the same name by Scott Phillips. It stars John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Connie Nielsen, with Randy Quaid and Oliver Platt in supporting roles. It was distributed by Focus Features, and the DVD was released on February 28, 2006.


Mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and crooked businessman and pornographer Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) steal over $2 million from their mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). While it appears there will be an easy getaway for the pair, they learn the roads out of town are too icy to drive on. Vic takes the cash for safe-keeping and they split up and try their best to evade being captured by Guerrard and his men, who have discovered their scheme.

Charlie visits Sweet Cage, a local strip-club, owned by Renata Crest (Connie Nielsen), a woman whom Charlie has long lusted for. She tasks Charlie to bring her an existing compromising picture, taken of a local crusading politician, that she can use to blackmail him to keep her club in business. Charlie goes to another strip club owned by Guerrard and removes the photo from the backroom safe. He is to meet up with her later that night.

Charlie discovers Guerrard is looking for him and, anxious about getting caught, goes to a restaurant/bar to meet with Vic, who assures him things will be okay. Vic leaves while the bar manager asks Charlie to drive Pete (Oliver Platt), Charlie's old and now very drunk friend home. Pete is married to Charlie's beautiful ex-wife Sarabeth. Charlie takes Pete to Pete's in-laws, and outside the house before they go in to a formal family dinner, Pete confesses he was 'screwing' Sarabeth while she was married to Charlie. Pete asks Charlie if that makes hm angry, and Charlies replies, "Actually, it makes me curious. Makes me wonder who she's fucking now." The two late arriving does not go well, and they leave, going back to the bar they had earlier left for 'one more' drink. Pete gets even more drunk, and Charlie drives him home (previously Charlie's house), where Pete passes out. Charlie 'borrows' Sarabeth's Mercedes from the garage since Pete had just vomited in Charlie's Lincoln.

Charlie goes back to Renata and gives her the photo. Renata deduces that Charlie is hiding something. He hints at the existence of money, and she suggests they go off together. Before they can do that, however, she tells him that Vic had called her earlier to say Charlie had been right about mob enforcer Roy Gelles (Mike Starr) looking for the two of them, and that Charlie needs to go meet with Vic while she closes her bar.

Charlie goes to Vic's home and finds Vic's wife dead and that Vic has locked Roy in an industrial trunk. The two stuff Roy, in the trunk, into Sarabeth's Mercedes back seat, and Vic's wife's body in the car's trunk, and head for a local lake. On the way, Roy continues talking to the two of them, telling Charlie Vic killed his wife, and is going to kill Charlie too. Vic berates Charlie for 'being nice' on Christmas Eve, and gets annoyed with Roy and shoots into the trunk, which becomes quiet. Charlie and Vic get the trunk down onto a dock at the lake, but it's shot open from the inside and Roy gets out, shooting Vic in the process. Vic shoots Roy dead, but then falls into the frozen lake. Vic begs for help, but Charlie knows Vic was going to kill him and take the money for himself. He dumps Vic's wife's body on Vic, telling him, "I don't want you to die alone," and leaves Vic to die, still pleading to be saved. But Charlie then discovers the duffel bag in the car does not have the money in it, so he gets drunk. He calls Renata and tells her what has happened, but she asks him to come to her anyway.

Returning to Sweet Cage, Charlie discovers Bill Guerrard's car in the parking lot. He has Renata tied up in the back office; she had enticed Charlie at the point Guerrard's gun. While Charlie fetches a double-barreled shotgun from behind the bar, Guerrard discusses the situation with Renata, surmising it was really her who designed the plan, as Vic was too dumb and Charlie too cowardly to pull it off, without her 'encouragement'. Charlie returns and points the gun at Guerrard, but Guerrard just taunts him. At Renata's urging, Charlie fires the gun, but it is loaded with birdshot and only superficially wounds him. As Charlie starts to cut Renata loose, Charlie is stabbed in the foot by a recovered Guerrard. Officer Tyler, making his rounds, hears the gunshot and arrives but Guerrard shoots him dead. Renata frees herself and stabs Guerrard. A struggle ensues, and Charlie manages to kill Guerrard with a second shot at point blank range.

As Charlie mends his wound, when Renata says something, he realizes Vic and Renata were planning to go off together after Vic had killed him. Charlie finds the money, hidden in Renata's closet, while she is in the bathroom cleaning up. As they embrace, Charlie kills Renata just before she can kill him.

Christmas morning, a sad Charlie drives from town with the money. He finds Sidney with his kids on the side of the road in a camper-motor home, on their way to Six Flags, that has run out of gas. Charlie lets Sidney siphon some gas from his tank. They wish each other well, but as Sidney drives off, he accidentally backs into Charlie, knocking him to the ground. Charlie picks himself up and gets back in the Mercedes, where Pete, in the back seat, has awoken from his stupor, and they wish each other 'Merry Christmas'. The pair drive off to a new and different future.


  • John Cusack as Charlie Arglist, a mob lawyer
  • Billy Bob Thornton as Vic Cavanaugh, a gangster, Charlie's partner
  • Connie Nielsen as Renata Crest, a strip-club owner whom Charlie has long lusted after
  • Randy Quaid as Bill Guerrard, a gangster/mob boss in Kansas
  • Oliver Platt as Pete Van Heuten, Charlie's friend, married to Charlie's ex-wife
  • Mike Starr as Roy Gelles, an enforcer for Bill Guerrard
  • Ned Bellamy as Sidney, the bartender at Sweet Cage, the strip-club Renata owns
  • T.J. Jagodowski as Officer Tyler, a brown-nosing local police officer
  • David Pasquesi as Councilman Williams, a local politician
  • Shana Goodsell as Christian Girl, a bartender Pete insults when very drunk
  • Justine Bentley as Sarabeth, Charlie's ex-wife/Pete's wife


Frequent Harold Ramis collaborator Bill Murray was reportedly offered a role. Monica Bellucci was originally set to play the role of Renata, but had to leave due to her pregnancy. Ramis almost had to close production for a day due to the weather, which would have spoiled his tradition of never losing a shooting day.

The film is based on the Scott Phillips novel The Ice Harvest. Filming took place exclusively in Illinois, on a $16,000,000 budget.

The DVD 'extras' consist of:

  • Alternate ending, number 1: has Charlie getting injured when Ned backs into him, then eventually walking away into an empty field.
  • Alternate ending, number 2: also has Charlie getting injured when Ned backs into him, but as he lays there, he recalls a day in Renata's bar with Vic, when Vic asks Renata if she ever performs nude for her customers, as Charlie is curious. Renata asks Charlie if that's what he wants, and he replies, ?Gosh, only if you want to.' She admonishes them to go home, but they talk a bit, and then Charlie pitches his ?idea' to Vic. Charlie is then back in the present, walking away into the empty field.
  • A short outtake performed by Thornton in his Sling Blade character 'Karl Childers' persona (voice), to the amusement and laughter of the assembled cast and crew.
  • A seventeen minute featurette about the film, with author Phillips and screenwriters Russo and Benton.
  • A thirteen minute featurette about the film, with the principal cast, director, and producers, about the character's motivations and personalities, Ramis's reasons for using Chicago (his home town) suburb locations to represent Wichita Falls, the film noir aspects of the picture, and cinematographer Kivilo's choice of colors used and captured on film.
  • A 6 minute featurette about the lake/dock scene " how it was constructed and filmed and what and how special effects were used, including using paraffin to represent ice.
  • The usual director's commentary.


The Ice Harvest grossed $US10,156,968, of which $US9,016,782 was from the United States. It has a 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

James Bernadelli of ReelReviews gave the film 2 and a half stars out of four, saying, "Despite its brevity, it seems padded, with all sorts of irrelevant scenes and dead-end subplots taking up time. [...] Next time, Ramis should work to his strengths, and film noir isn't one of them. The Ice Harvest will have melted away long before the turkey leftovers are polished off."

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and said: "I liked the movie for the quirky way it pursues humor through the drifts of greed, lust, booze, betrayal and spectacularly complicated ways to die. I liked it for Charlie's essential kindness, as when he pauses during a getaway to help a friend who has run out of gas. And for the scene-stealing pathos of Oliver Platt's drunk, who like many drunks in the legal profession achieves a rhetorical grandiosity during the final approach to oblivion. And I liked especially the way Roy, the man in the trunk, keeps on thinking positively, even after Vic puts bullets through both ends of the trunk because he can't remember which end of the trunk Roy's head is at. Maybe it's in the middle."

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Ice_Harvest" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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