Old McDonald gets iced in Kenosha

Thin Ice

on February 28, 2012 by Pete Hammond
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Playing 2011's Sundance under the name The Convincer, this noir-infused black comedy now calls itself Thin Ice, a more ironically appropriate title for this twisted tale. Borrowing heavily from movies like Fargo, Thin Ice is a doozy about a slippery insurance agent (Greg Kinnear) who finds himself entangled in all sorts of no-good and it should keep specialty audiences intrigued throughout. Expect low-key box office that could build among adult audiences if theaters manage to stick by this earnest indie for more than a week.

Kinnear is Mickey Prohaska, a not-so-honest insurance salesman who drifts from hotel room to hotel room and pulls the wool over everyone's eyes, even his ex-wife (Lea Thompson) who should be wise to his ways when he tries to weasel his way back into their house. Mickey offers motivational speeches on techniques he uses selling insurance and here tries it out on the perfect mark: a kindly old man named Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin) who isn't as interested in buying a policy as he is in having company. But the presence of a rare violin worth $30,000 catches Mickey's eye and the plot thickens when a locksmith (Billy Crudup) enters the picture, a murder occurs and Mickey is implicated. But that's just the beginning in a film that twists and turns with the best of ‘em. The less you anticipate, the more enjoyable the picture becomes.

Though convoluted at times, it's wickedly entertaining throughout, and a surprisingly satisfying dark comedy that delivers in the spirit of a Coen Bros movie, if not quite up to their standards. In fact, it's the handiwork of a distaff version of The Coens: The Sprecher sisters-a.k.a. director Jill Sprecher (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Clockwatchers) and sister Karen who co-wrote the script with her. While they don't quite reach to heights of wit and irony of the Coens, they provide a sophisticated and amusing palette on which to set their story. They are also gifted to have Kinnear, an underrated actor who deserves better roles and gets one of his best outings here. You can just imagine what a younger Jack Lemmon would have done with this and Kinnear is worthy of comparison. Arkin, as usual, is pitch perfect with droll line readings and a sweet understanding of the slightly demented old man he plays. Crudup is also fine as far but his is the least interesting part here.

Although the setting is supposed to be Kenosha, Wisconsin, it was all shot in Minnesota (perhaps a better financial deal or just more snow?) and Dick Pope's superb cinematography doesn't miss a stitch disguising the locations, although, to be fair it probably isn't that much of a stretch. The Minnesota connection may make you think Fargo but it works, and so does the Sprechers' film, as far as it goes.

Distributor: ATO Pictures
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson.
Director: Jill Sprecher
Screenwriters: Jill Sprecher, Karen Sprecher
Producers: Mary Francis Budiq, Elizabeth Redleaf, Christine Walker
Genre: Comedy/drama
Rating: R Language, Brief violent and sexual action.
Running time: 93 min.
Release Date: February 17 ltd.

 

Tags: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson, Jill Sprecher, Karen Sprecher, Mary Francis Budiq, Elizabeth Redleaf, Christine Walker
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