This darkly comedic thriller full of dubious characters with generally bad intentions centers on Charlie (John Cusack) and Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), a couple of mid-level mob associates -- from the Wichita, Kansas branch. Charlie is a lawyer and Vic runs a local strip club. They both work for a Big Boss back in Kansas City from whom they've stolen a lot of money. It's Christmas Eve and they intend to skip town before gifts are opened the next morning, but, as you can imagine, it doesn't work out as planned.
The film itself is sloppy, and not all of the threads are gathered, but it hardly matters. It's not so much the story that plays here -- it's the attitude. Which is Bad. Connie Nielsen crackles as the femme fatale, while Oliver Platt and Randy Quaid provide solid if slightly rote character touches. Thornton does the creepy, foul-mouthed mean guy thing as only he can, and Cusack seems an older and only slightly wiser version of his character from "The Grifters."
Make no mistake: This is an R-rated, mean-spirited movie for which Christmas makes a great backdrop, but only if you really hate Christmas. If not, "It's A Wonderful Life" is sure to be playing somewhere. Starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Randy Quaid and Oliver Platt. Directed by Harold Ramis. Written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton. Produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. A Focus release. Black comedy. Rated R for violence, language and sexuality/nudity. Running time: 89 min