'Ice Harvest' produces laughs, killer Peter Wolf track

I recall being interested by the trailer but then skipping The Ice Harvest after it earned poor reviews when it opened last winter. Last night, I put in the DVD and laughed so loud I'm guessing the quiet girl who lives across the hall from me once again considered calling the authorities. I can't help it. I'm prone to guffaws. Big ones. Especially after that third glass of wine.

The Ice Harvest is dark. It's a mix of film noir and black comedy that stands as director Harold Ramis' most inspired movie since Groundhog Day. The action all takes place in a single night but by film's end we feel a connection with the characters, even the most despicable ones.

John Cusack stars as a lovable loser (a "mob lawyer") and Billy Bob Thornton plays the villain (a pornographer) who talks him into committing a $2-million dollar robbery on Christmas Eve. Anyone who got a kick out of watching these two battle in Pushing Tin will find their work in The Ice Harvest equally entertaining. Oliver Platt also turns in a memorable performance as a rich drunk up to his ears in regret. Randy Quaid doesn't appear until almost the final reel but shines as a fatback thug.

The film concludes with Cusack and Platt driving across the cold, windy plains of Kansas, their destinies unclear. The song that plays fits the scene near perfectly. It's a rounder's lament. All the singer knows for sure is that his woman don't love him no more and the only thing he can do about is keep trucking down "old 41." The song is "Nothing But The Wheel" and features Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band) with Mick Jagger on background vocals. The result is a slice of country-rock that ranks right up there with twangy Stones classics like "Dead Flowers."

Listen to "Nothing But the Wheel" on Peter Wolf's MySpace page. The song is from his 1992 2002 solo album Sleepless, which is now on my list of CDs to acquire in the near future.

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