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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad66.67%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Thin Ice (aka The Convincer)
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by Jay Seaver

"Not exactly convincing."
2 stars

"Thin Ice" started life as "The Convincer" (and played Sundance under that name) before being re-cut and re-scored to its current form, and that name would have put a bit of a target on its back. The movie requires we be believe that a character is charismatic and persuasive, and that's just not there. Calling the movie "Thin Ice" doesn't make it better, but it manages expectations a little.

Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) sells insurance out of a small office in Kenosha, and he's apparently good enough at preying on strangers' fears to lecture on the topic at the regional convention. While there, he poaches a young up-and-comer from a rival, although nice-guy Bob (David Harbour) has a tendency to talk people out of overinsuring themselves. That's how it's going with Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin), an eccentric and half-senile farmer, at least until violin expert Leonard Dahl (Bob Balaban) shows up to examine the apparently rare instrument in Gorvy's attic, but only talks to Mickey. Circumstances lead to Mickey believing he can keep the money from the sale of the guitar for himself, but a series of miscommunications lead to Mickey and locksmith Randy Kinney (Billy Crudup) being involved in something a bit nastier than fraud.

Mickey's not a good person; even considering that he's in a business that thrives on misrepresentation, he lies reflexively and is utterly unconcerned about other people. And while it's not necessarily important that the main character be likable, it would help a great deal if he were interesting. Whether because of sisters Jill & Karen Sprecher's script (Jill also directs) or Greg Kinnear's performance, though, that never really happens. His scenes with Lea Thompson as Mickey's soon-to-be-ex-wife don't do anything to add nuance to the character, nor do any others; there's no hint of a tragic flaw that put him in his financial hole. He's just a generically selfish guy, and Kinnear plays him that way, desperation covered with practiced pitches. There's no moment where we see him really good at this sort of thing, and he's such a blank that it's tough to either hate him enough to root against him or develop a sneaky admiration for his cunning or ruthlessness.

He's not even really slick or scummy enough to serve as an amusing counterpoint to the cheery midwesterners he's paired with, which is a bit of a shame. David Harbour does work off him pretty well as a friendly dim bulb who doesn't quite seem to understand what he, as an insurance salesman, is looking to do; he plays the part fairly well. Alan Arkin maybe goes a little overboard as Gorvy, but it's a performance with occasional entertaining moments. Billy Crudup, meanwhile, goes to town as Randy, injecting an unhinged energy that the movie could use more of at times.

In hindsight, the story is put together fairly well, if not perfectly, although it seems very unbalanced in the first act: Before the violin appears, and certainly before Randy becomes a part of the story, this seems like a movie about Mickey as a person, and as such it seems like we should be spending a lot more time seeing him with his wife and son as opposed to Bob - and to be honest, Bob seems pretty extraneous well into the movie. Once the violin is in play, the plot starts to rely on actual and arranged coincidence, eventually getting tangled enough to require an explanation at the end which may not be completely satisfying.

(It's worth noting that the amount of explanation is reportedly one of the things that changed between the original director's cut that played Sundance and the one made by the studio without director Jill Sprecher's participation. The "Thin Ice" version reviewed is the one which will play theaters, although the "Convincers" cut is expected to be included on home video.)

At least in this form, "Thin Ice" is stuck in a situation of being neither fish nor fowl; Mickey is never really interesting enough to be the center of a movie about him as a person, but the crime story isn't impressive enough to hang with the best of that genre. There may be a cut where this story works, but this one isn't it.

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originally posted: 09/21/11 23:31:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/28/12 Maria excellent 5 stars
3/06/12 Al R I want my money back, I'v been scammed. 1 stars
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  DVD: 12-Jun-2012


  DVD: 12-Jun-2012

Directed by
  Jill Sprecher

Written by
  Jill Sprecher
  Karen Sprecher

  Greg Kinnear
  Alan Arkin
  Billy Crudup
  David Harbour

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