What’s The Matter With Kansas: The Ice Harvest

This per­verse Dick­en­sian tale has the mak­ings of a mod­ern day Christ­mas clas­sic: a moral­i­ty play gone awry in almost too many ways to count, with a Scrooge who real­izes that even if he’s gen­er­ous, the bank accoun­t’s still full. There’s Christ­mas past, present and future, all rolled into one icy rain­storm as a Benz whisks Cusack from tense to tense.

If it sounds like anoth­er maudlin Christ­mas movie to you and if you’ve had enough of The Christ­mas Sto­ry to last a life­time, con­sid­er this: Cusack plays a mob lawyer involved in a “per­fect crime,” part­nered with Bil­ly Bob Thorn­ton as the mus­cle guy with moti­va­tion. Set in Kansas, we’re made aware of the con­tra­dic­tions at play; you can almost hear Sen. Brown­back chid­ing his con­gre­ga­tion, ahem, con­stituen­cy against the evils por­trayed here­in. This is the oth­er Kansas — one that was left behind as rock ’n’ roll moved out of Kansas City for Detroit, New York and Los Ange­les. The polit­i­cal ambi­gu­i­ty still allows for a cri­tique of greed and hypocrisy, some­thing Daniel Kas­man notes in his review.

Ramis returns to a famil­iar theme: small town claus­tro­pho­bia. But unlike Ground­hog Day, the dan­ger in Wichi­ta Falls is as pal­pa­ble as it is inevitable. As Cusack skirts the cops and his would-be killer, we learn how des­per­ate every­one is to escape; think of a thou­sand toast­ers dropped into a thou­sand bath­tubs in the name of exis­ten­tial free­dom. But for Cusack and his com­pa­ny, there are no easy outs.

If The Par­don­er’s Tale were a Christ­mas com­e­dy or Ground­hog Day a noir soaked in rain and bour­bon, then The Ice Har­vest would be a brown paper bag wait­ing for you Christ­mas morn­ing beneath the tree, dec­o­rat­ed with blood red ribbon.