Harvest [1993]

Holiday movies don't get much darker, or more darkly humorous, than The Ice Harvest, an offbeat comedy that defies expectations. The involvement of director Harold Ramis might lead some to expect a straight-up comedy like Groundhog Day or Analyze This, but despite Ramis's fine and atypically subdued work here, it's the writers (Robert Benton and Richard Russo) who put a stronger stamp on their adaptation of the novel by Scott Phillips. Benton and Russo previously collaborated on Nobody's Fool and Twilight (with Benton also directing), and those films are similar in tone and spirit to this quirky, modern-day film noir, set on a freezing Christmas Eve in Wichita, Kansas, where mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) has a lot on his mind. He's just stolen $2 million from his boss (Randy Quaid), he can't trust his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), he's secretly in love with the manager (Connie Nielsen) of the strip bar he owns, and his best friend (Oliver Platt, giving yet another terrific performance) is married to his ex-wife. Before the night's over, several murders will complicate matters even further, and throughout it all, The Ice Harvest is anchored by Cusack's good-natured presence in a bad-natured story that dares to combine double-crosses and bloodshed with elusive yuletide cheer. It's a strange but oddly appealing combination, not for all tastes but refreshing for that very same reason. --Jeff Shannon

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