Movies: "Thin Ice" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Thin Ice"
Movies: "Thin Ice"


Here’s a small antidote to the spring blockbusters now crowding movie theaters:  a tricky, snowbound thriller with a sturdy indie-movie cast and a convoluted story line.


Meet Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), the sleaziest small-time insurance salesman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who dreams of escaping its endless winter by scoring enough sales to win a trip to Aruba.  To help him meet that goal, he hires Bob, a naive salesman (David Harbour) who lands a prospective client, the reclusive Gorvy Hauer (the great Alan Arkin, who produced this movie as well).


When Mickey sneaks over to Gorvy’s farmhouse to commandeer the sale, he’s surprised by a visitor (Bob Balaban), who informs him that among the piles of junk in Gorvy’s home is a rare German violin.  Mickey, who has long since raided his own firm’s revenues, decides to cash in on that pricey fiddle.


But just as he sets out to switch a cheap, newly-bought violin for the precious one, he encounters a dangerous snag at Gorvy’s farm:  a security lock installer named Randy (Billy Crudup) with a hair-trigger temper.  He amply demonstrates that when he suddenly murders a friend of Gorvy’s (jolly Peter Thoemke) who happened to stop by at precisely the wrong time.


Now the hapless Mickey is saddled with a rabid Randy in a murder conspiracy -- and things will only get more complicated as the movie takes more twists and turns.


With its snowy settings, small-time crooks and sudden violence, “Thin Ice” is bound to remind you of the Coen Brothers’ outrageous midwest crime caper “Fargo”.  (In fact, although it’s set in Wisconsin, “Thin Ice” was actually filmed in the Coens’ home state of Minnesota).  It’s not as good as its Oscar winning predecessor, but it’s not all that bad either, and adult audiences should enjoy its unexpected outcome, although they’ll find it hard to root for anyone in this movie, except maybe Mickey’s exasperated, under-appreciated office manager (Michelle Arthur).


“Thin Ice” was directed by Jill Sprecher (“Clockwatchers”) and was co-written by Sprecher and her sister Karen.  The serviceable cinematography is by Dick Pope, who also shot such British cinema treats as “Topsy-Turvy” and “Happy Go Lucky”.  It’s rated R for a mild sex scene and some violence.


I give it a B.