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Thin Ice

What have we here but another visit from my old nemesis, the film that cannot be discussed without giving away more than a conscientious reviewer should. For those of you who, like me, prefer to know as little as possible about a movie before seeing it, I will try to provide a minimal synopsis, followed by a paragraph you should skip.

With more than a few echoes of Fargo, Thin Ice is the blackly comic tale of a man who quickly gets in over his head when he strays from the straight and narrow. Mickey Prohaska owns an insurance agency in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He is played by Greg Kinnear in a textbook example of casting against type: The fact that we generally like Kinnear keeps us interested in the tale of a guy who is pretty much a jerk. A sales call to a retired farmer (Alan Arkin, giving a master class in comic befuddlement) seems like a waste of his time until he notices a valuable violin on the premises. Stealing it and selling it seems simple, almost too easy, but his little crime quickly spins out of control when he is forced to take on a partner, an insanely hot-tempered ex-con locksmith (Billy Crudup).


It’s pretty clear from the get-go that there is some kind of scam going on underneath the story we see unfolding. And when we find out what it is, the story is replayed with such haste and artlessness that you want to rewatch the film to see if it all hangs together, though I suspect that it doesn’t. Thin Ice was directed by Jill Sprecher (and written in collaboration with her sister, Karen), though a more apt way to put it might be that it was adapted from her film The Convincer. Sprecher made a couple of worthy independent films a decade ago, including Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. Although The Convincer was shown at film festivals and well received, the producer decided to re-edit it, removing 20 minutes, restructuring it, deleting some characters and explanatory voice-overs, and inserting scenes that Sprecher had removed, according to a letter she wrote to Roger Ebert. Without having seen the original version, it’s impossible to say which is better, though what’s left has faults that seem readily explained by Sprecher’s accusation.

What’s left isn’t a bad film, at least until the rushed ending, but it does leave you with unanswered questions and a nagging feeling that it should have been better than it is.

Watch the trailer for Thin Ice

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