The Ice Harvest seems like a very big departure for a director like Harold Ramis. Known for zany comedies like Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Groundhog Day to the successful comedy pairing of Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This and Analyze That, Ramis takes on a completely polar-opposite story from his earlier work, with much darker comedy with a flair for film noir, in his adaptation of the Scott Phillips’ novel.

Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a seedy lawer, and Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton), a scummy yes-man, conspire to steal from their mob boss employer Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid) in Wichita, Kansas. While everything seems to go just as they planned, they will soon learn that everything that could go wrong will go wrong, especially given the fact that they really don’t even trust one another. Thrown in a drunk husband of Charlie’s ex-wife, Pete Van Heuten (Oliver Platt), shouting about Charlie to every bar patron that will listen, and the unattainable love interest named Renata Crest (Connie Nielsen), and Charlie is going to find that he’ll be lucky to get out of all of this alive.

Cusack and Thornton are wonderfully cast into their roles, and the supporting cast is a strong one with Connie Nielsen, Mike Starr, and Oliver Platt giving some great turns as citizens of Wichita’s darker underbelly. Randy Quaid is wickedly dark, especially for those who had only witnessed his dumb-as-an-ox-with-a-heart-of-gold role as Cousin Eddie in the Vacation films, or as a drunken pilot who spouted his alien abduction story in Independence Day.

While the cast is strong, the film’s ultimate cynical message may not resonate with many, except perhaps those who really loved the novel. There are no redeeming characters in the entire film, by design, and when contrasted with its Christmas Eve setting, the irony might be lost on most viewers.

While the viewer’s enjoyment of the story might vary, this is a blu-ray release from Kino Lorber that is loaded with extras. The first is an audio commentary with the late-Harold Ramis who discusses the film scene by scene along with 2 alternate endings. An outtake with Billy Bob Thornton is available, along with several featurettes dealing with the adaptation of the story from novel to film, some of the running themes of The Ice Harvest, and a fun look at the making of one of the scenes that takes place at the film’s climax involving an icy pond and Billy Bob Thornton’s uneasiness of being in water. There is also a trailer for the film and English subtitles are available.