Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Ice Harvest

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

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Extremely Offensive
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action/Adventure, Comedy, Thriller and Crime/Gangster
1 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
Featuring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Platt, Randy Quaid
Director: Harold Ramis
Producer: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Distributor: Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem?

What is the true meaning of CHRISTMAS?
An accurate explanation of the purpose Jesus Christ’s birth. Answers for skeptics. Plus, Christmas carols, games, coloring pages, reviews of Christmas movies, and more.

Thick thieves. Thin Ice.


Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. —Elisabeth Elliot

Psalm 137: By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! Remember, O LORD, against the E’domites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, “Raise it, raise it! Down to its foundations!” O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

Our captors, of course, are the things of this world. Winding us up and causing us to sing songs that may sound right as we sing them, but after we are done, we must pay the devil the cost. The devil lurks at Christmas time. He is swaggering around, trying his best to get our attention off the things of Christ, and into degradation. The movie folks have done a good job of defacing all that is holy, not only in Christmas, but in basic human existence in “The Ice Harvest.”

I like the title. It sounds like a movie filled with intrigue and perhaps a bit of romance. Unfortunately, it is neither. I also assumed it would have solid characters since Billy Bob Thornton was among the top named cast. Wrong again. Mr. Thornton seems to be getting himself into a pattern as the leader of a liberal Hollywood attack on Christmas—first with “Bad Santa,” now “The Ice Harvest,” playing this time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior for irony.

“The Ice Harvest” follows the last 12 hours of Christmas eve (a take, though subtle, on the last 12 hours of Christ’s Earthly life in The Passion) in a cold, snowbound, repellent side of life in Wichita, Kansas.

Charlie Arglist (John Cusack doing a great job of low key humor and pathos), a lawyer to Wichita’s richest bums and mobsters and his producer of porno films friend Vic (Billy Bob Thornton, always cool and slimy at the same time), together decide they can actually embezzle two million from Kansas kingpin Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid) and make a clean getaway. Yeah, right.

Charlie spends his Christmas Eve trying to act normal, as Vic has instructed him, until they can figure out a way to get outta town, unseen by the henchmen sent by big Bill to find that duffle bag full of crisp new wampum. Embezzling would be much simpler and less detectible done through online transfers in this day and age, but the fact these guys have a bulging duffle bag full of money to lug around is suppose to add to the humor. That and the fact that they’ve done the deed with absolutely no planning, and now are figuring out step two while the mob is literally inches away at any given moment.

As “The Little Drummer Boy” plays sweetly in the background, we are subject to vile acts of pornography, murder, lewdness, corruption, smut, obscenity, lust, lasciviousness, and slander. Apparently for Charlie to “act normal” he must visit every stripper establishment in town, drinking and throwing up along the way. This is da life! The Velvet Touch is run by femme fatale Renata (Connie Nielsen), a sort of sleazy Jessica Rabbit type, with a subdued whisper-growl voice, low-cut cami and high-slit pencil skirt. Because Charlie can’t take his eyes off her, we’re suppose to assume it’s real love and not just plain lust.

The best friend Charlie can come up with is pathetic Pete (tragic Oliver Platt with possibly the best performance in this farce), a perspiring, overweight drunk who just happens to be married to Charlie’s ex wife and absolutely miserable (Pete, not the ex wife). I personally couldn’t figure out why she left handsome Charlie for sweaty, low-life Pete, except that this was supposed to be a funny plot twist. Poor Pete whispers, in despair, “I can’t do my life,” and then passes out in a drunken stupor. That’s not funny, it’s pitiful.

As dark humor goes, this one is so black you can’t even make out the humor. It’s kinda hard to laugh when fingers are being chopped off, innocent women are shot in the head while wrapping Christmas gifts, pornographic images are in-your-face at any given moment and some man’s brains are blown out and his blood plops all over another human being. Please people! What are we laughing at these days?

R-rated is right. Vulgar language ran so rampant I had to stop counting and cover my ears! Not to mention, as this is set at Christmas, it gave the script writers plenty of opportunities to take the Lord’s name in vain and make snide remarks about Christmas in general. I just couldn’t take listening to “Silent Night” while viewing a guy drunk, sitting on a dirty toilet in some smelly bar as funny. I guess I was supposed to see the irony or pathos in the situations these characters were portrayed in, but all I felt was pity and repulsion that the script was even produced—and that many people will pay good money to see this perversion. This Christmas crime movie is incredibly unchallenging bunk.

There are no redeeming elements or characters in “The Ice Harvest.” Nude dancers, bare breasts and all other parts of the female anatomy are prevalent. Comments abound, hiding as humor, but really uttered just to make your mouth drop open as in “I can’t believe they said that.” or as cheap shock value, examples: Vic, referring to his Christian wife, mocking; “she’s making me come home to go to midnight Christmas prayers,” like it was a stupid thing to even consider doing on Christmas Eve. And, mocking again the fact that it’s God’s birthday. A very drunk Pete makes rude comments to a hostess in a cocktail lounge, first pointing out that she is wearing a cross around her neck, then making comments to her boyfriend that he would like to dream about her as “…one naked little Christian,” and as a “…hot little Jesus freak.” Vic states that “…only morons are nice at Christmas.” Another character states that he considered “…becoming a pastor and starting a church and let Jesus pay the mortgage…” These lines, and many more coupled with the sorry fact many people in the audience were actually chuckling at these blasphemous comments, made me heartsick.

Haggai 1:3-5 laments, among other things—“Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts: “Consider your ways!” The Israelites of his time were much like we are now, spending everything they had to attain a sense of satisfaction that was eluding them. Like the characters depicted in this film, no matter what they did—eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much—they could never be happy.

“You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag of holes.” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:6-7)

If we don’t put God first, we’ll never find true satisfaction. Especially by stealing, deception and murder. How selfish and pathetic. These characters were not humorous in the least. They were like dogs chasing their tails, never getting anywhere, and I might add, just where the devil wants us all to be. Not making God the priority in life, we all simply spend and spend our money, our lives, our very spirits, only to find in the end our pockets and our souls, as Charlie’s and the characters in “The Ice Harvest,” are sorely empty.

Still, there is hope for those who are real-life Charlie, Vic and Pete’s. Finding Jesus and true repentance for even the grossest of sins, can be done, Praise God! As 1 John 1:9 promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This is not a perfect world, and we are not perfect people. Many have mocked Christmas, gotten drunk, blasphemed and a million other acts many are sure to feel guilty and most unworthy over. Perhaps not as vile as in this film, but things that have given us a profound sense of shame. But, instead of dwelling on our imperfection, look at what Scripture tells us in the midst of our shame and confusion:

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the Earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:10-14)

In watching “The Ice Harvest,” my heart was heavy as I remembered vile, gross and ugly is not our reality; it is Satan’s. Knowing you need not go see this film and encouraging you that if you know someone who needs Jesus, to witness to them with your whole heart this season, is my Christmas gift to you.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

Year of Release—2005 / USA release: November 23, 2005 (wide).

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—Walked out after about 30 minutes. Use of profanity (constantly) and many pornographic scenes added nothing to the movie’s story line and were extremely offensive. One especially disturbing scene is a Christmas Eve dinner with two children at the table and their drunk step-father walks in and uses the “F” word several times (among others). Story line was lacking and uninteresting. Am a huge John Cusack fan and am extremely disappointed in this truly dark film. Would recommend this movie to NO ONE.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 2
—Brenda Baggs, age 48
Negative—Thanksgiving Day brought a big giant Turkey to box offices everywhere, presenting us with the incredibly melted down “Ice Harvest.” Ice Harvest is the kind of movie that everyone hoped would be great and hoped would be enjoyable, given other comeback movies of Harold Ramis (Director of Ice Harvest and Ghostbusters) and John Cusack (Gross Point Blank, Identity and Must Love Dogs). Let’s face it, we love John Cusack and Harold Ramis is a great director, but what were they thinking when they decided to team up together for this incredibly boring, filthy, and just mundane script?

“Ice Harvest” is the drab story of a mob lawyer (John Cusack) and his friend (Billy Bob Thornton) who decide to steal over 2 million dollars from none other than John Cusack’s boss (Randy Quaid). Once the heist takes place, they are quickly on the run but stuck in a terrible ice storm in the middle of Wichita, Kansas. The plot thickens when a hit man comes to recover the money and kill the two for stealing it. There is an attempt to add some plot to the story by throwing in John Cusack’s best friend, Oliver Platt, who stole Cusack’s wife (who is now cheating on him in return), the redemptive quality of the dead beat dad and the girl he always loved being his only confidant. You really can’t get much more jumbled up than this.

Ice Harvest is the kind of script that may have been good if they stuck to the heist idea and nothing else. There was no need for any other subplots and dead dialogue. The characters were drab, the script delivery was boring and the directing was just not up to Harold Ramis’s typical greatness. “Ice Harvest” attempted to grab in the male audience by adding lots of needless nudity and dirty jokes, all of which fell flat.

…Boring, Dumb, Bad Directing, Sub Par Acting and Horrible Script! OK, Oliver Platt as always was just awesome. Maybe it’s because he is like that cool little stuffed animal that mom gave you when you were a kid, but Platt is just a great supporting actor. Warning: This movie contains LOTS of nudity (Full Frontal), filthy jokes, violence and language. Not for Kids! 1 of 4 Stars (Platt gets the 1 star)
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 1½
—John Kehrli, age 31
Movie Critics
…The movie equivalent of yellow snow…
—Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
…finds a balance between the goofy and the gruesome…
—Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…Ramis is out of his depth here, lost when it comes to building tension—sexual and otherwise—and unsure how to combine all the elements and weave in the comedy…
—Chicago Tribune, Allison Benedikt
…Harold Ramis goes noir but isn’t willing to match the ugliness of his subject matter…
—The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore
…irreverent, offensive movie contains at least 100 obscenities and profanities as well as bloody violence…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review, Mary Draughon