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This is a flawed but still watchable film that seems to steal
characters and plot from the Coen Brothers' Fargo, yet manages to
succeed. At least to an extent.
The problem may be - as we were told at our cinema previewing club - that the director lost final cut here, and found herself with a movie she no longer can even comment on, with 15 minutes cut, the film re-edited, and a score she never intended - and one that doesn't work well.
The result is a somewhat uneven, too dark black comedy. Or is it a drama? Or perhaps a "caper" movie? I'm not quite sure.
When it comes to the acting, though, this is a great film. Greg Kinnear plays a character too reminiscent of Wm. H. Macy's turn in Fargo, but he makes the most of it, though - team player that he is - he's outshone by more spectacular performances. Alan Arkin, for one, who also did it to Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine. But the "steal the show" performance is by Billy Crudup, always sexy (my wife says he's "hot") and interesting to watch, and here at his very best. Bob Balaban is spot on as a violin dealer, and the rest of the cast is excellent.
Worth seeing for many, but mostly for those performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The swindle, the bamboozle, the big Con. A favorite subject for
filmmakers for nearly a century now. The game is basically always the
same, but the players are what makes for a great con movie. "Thin Ice"
(previously titled at Sundance 2011 as "The Convincer") goes
white-collar crime, the legal kind, just look in your phone book and
you might find your own convincer, the local Insurance salesman.
"Thin Ice" directed by Jill Sprecher, is Sprecher's return to feature films after her well received "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing". Alan Arkin, returns to team up again with Sprecher and is joined on screen with "Little Miss Sunshine" cohort Greg Kinnear to create a thoroughly enjoyable tale of Midwestern simplicity and the everyday Con man with a silver tongue. An old man with an unfathomably rare violin crosses paths with an insurance salesman at the end of his rope, what unfolds across the frozen terrain of Wisconsin is a wonderful bit of storytelling The film has a solid cast of players, alongside Kinnear and Arkin, Billy Cudrup has a solid little role. David Harbour delivers a gem of a performance and the fantastic Bob Balaban is always a welcome addition to any movie.
Much of the effectiveness of the movie, which could easily have been a rehash of all the movies before it, is in its Midwestern point of view and ability take your average insurance man and peel away the layers to observe how the art of lying creates a life of constant deceit that will eventually take it's toll. Mickey the insurance man(Kinnear) trolls 24/7 for a mark to give his sales pitch, but when he crosses paths with the simple farmer Gorvy the amount of deceit he will need to get the big payday pushes him to cross even lines he never dreamt of going.
A unusual relationship forms between the insurance man and the farmer, as Mickey is forced into a role of caregiver as he circles the rare violin in hopes of selling it for big money. "Thin Ice" unfolds through these series of encounters between Mickey and Gorvey and tension builds at a detailed pace towards Mickey's eventual ultimate deceit. Mickey's life is falling apart around him, ultimately their is no back-up plan, at any and all costs his existence is tied to the old man and the violin.
The film maintains a steady pace, each detail is thoroughly absorbed and clearly never losing sight that its all building up to, not if, but when Mickey will cross the line from white-collar liar to criminal. Although "Thin Ice" is a fascinating take on the relationship between a simple Midwest farmer and convincing insurance man, it is foremost a story of the consequences of lying and when those lies will come back to haunt you.
Thus the story takes a dramatic turn as Mickey unwillingly teams with a local ex-convict locksmith(Billy Cudrup) to break into Gorvy's home to get his prize violin. Things don't go at all as planned and soon Mickey is dealing with a whole nother type of crime. The killing kind. What unfolds through the second half of the movie is a masterful touch of high tension and bumbling amateur criminal misbehaving.
Though the film will undoubtedly be compared to a few other con movies, Fargo comes to mind though that's primarily just scenery correlation, "Thin Ice" is very much original. The strength of this film is the wonderfully acted script that is sharp and nearly without flaw. The movie could not have had better pieces then Kinnear and Arkin who are brilliantly matched and thoughtfully reminiscent of their real life counterparts.
This thoroughly engaging and captivating little tale works from beginning to end. If one were to focus on possible weaknesses it would only be that true to it's Midwestern stylings its not overly flashy Nor particularly gritty compared to slicker studio productions. That being said "Thin Ice" is completely its own film and gives very little to dislike.
"Thin Ice", much like Fargo, is a murder-story set in a
snowy-midwestern town. The lead character is an immoral salesmen who's
life is literally falling apart around him.
The good news is that "Thin Ice" provides the audience with an even-more-twisty-tale. The performances are steady across the board. Now, I'm not saying this is as good or better than Fargo, IT'S NOT! But, it's a good movie.
The twists in the last 30 minutes are hefty and hard to scrutinize. There are a few aspects of the plot that were a little predictable, but for the most part the twists in the end were well-concealed and somewhat believable.
The film moves fairly slow, but never came off to me as boring. It doesn't really have any style to speak of, and the other director elements are nothing special. Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, and Billy Crudip do a fine job with an average script that is completely void of comedic moments(style and comedy were two of Fargo's strengths).
The plot twists in the last third of the film DO set this one apart, and while the film DOES lack style and comedy, the acting helps keep it afloat.
I'd say this deserves a bit higher ranking than it's current 6.1 here, but it also isn't something that you should feel the need to move up to the top of your list.
A Coen Brothers story without some of the Coen Bro's trademarks.
I'm stuck between 6 and 7 here at 65/100, but rounding up and taking into consideration the low 6.1 score.
You might like this if you liked: American Gun(not as good), Fargo(better), Burn After Reading(about even), and Millions(not as good).
Very similar to Fargo we have Thin Ice. A cocky convincing insurance
agent (Kinnear) thinks he's found his answer to all his problems when
he finds out that after making a sale with a senile, lonely, old man
(Arkin) that the old man has a violin worth thousands. Everything goes
to plan to steal the violin until he meets a locksmith.
So here's the thing. We have an engaging thriller. Each scene does an excellent job escalating keep you biting your fingernails. You don't think anything could get worst but it always seems to. In fact it's very awkward and nerve racking.
Kinnear does an excellent job playing a sleazy salesman where at times literally steals and manipulate his clients. He's ahead of the game and for some reason we root for him. (Not sure about the unnecessary voice over) Arkin does an excellent job as the lovable elder man whom seems to only have a few years left in the tank. And then there is Billy Crudup, the crazy psychotic locksmith.
I got to tell you I loved this film. Well that is until the last ten minutes which not only left my jaw drop in disgust but also to many critics. It completely ruins the great performances and tone of the film. In fact, I hated the ending.
But all in all it was a good ride for a while.
My rating: 5.75/10 or C+
Thin Ice went through a pretty rough time in order to finally get to
the big screen. I was going to call it Jill Sprecher's Thin Ice, but
that wouldn't be entirely accurate. Sprecher wrote the film, along with
Karen Sprecher, and titled it The Convincer. She wrote it, shot it with
a great cast including Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup and Alan Arkin, and
did all of her fine work to get it to Sundance. Then the studio grabbed
the film, cut off half an hour of it while also changing major plot
details of it, cutting out entire characters and apparently even doing
reshoots. Sprecher went as far as trying to get her name removed from
the film, but due to her contract she was unable to.
If you ever have the misfortune of watching Thin Ice, you can only sit and imagine what the film could have been had it been left in it's original form (although apparently The Convincer will strangely be available to watch on the Blu-Ray release of the film, so I will check that out when it's released). As it stands, Thin Ice is a bizarre comedic crime thriller that throws itself all over the place and then brings itself back together in one of the laziest, most borderline offensive final acts I've seen in a while.
Do you love those films where the character speaks directly to the audience and explains everything that happened the entire film? Where you spend the whole film having the wool pulled over your eyes and then the main character tells you all about it in the final fifteen minutes, in a montage sequence of unraveling the threads? Well, if you do then Thin Ice is the film or you. If you don't, you should avoid it completely, as it's a wildly incoherent and frustrating journey that just gets outrageously painful in the end.
I saw some kind reviews of the film (this version of it) that likened it to directors such as Hitchock and the Coen Brothers and I have to say that those critics must have been high off of whatever the studio who chopped this film up were on. The cast does what they can, particularly the riotously funny Billy Crudup, but this was dead in the water the moment they started to chop up Sprecher's vision. Do yourself a favor and wait to see what her original version of the film looked like when the Blu-Ray releases. That's what I wish I had done.
Great performances, average movie, that's basically what you can take away from THIN ICE, which wants to be taken seriously as a Midwestern con flick with a bit of Coens' Fargo feel to it but the way it reveals itself at the end is so abrupt and hasty, it jams itself down the audience's throat and it doesn't care whether or not the audience is fully prepared for it just yet. Interesting concept, a con film through the eyes of the marked man, but interesting at best is what this film would have to settle for
Greg Kinnear is a fantastic actor, I think I find myself saying that about all of his previous performances. There are certain occupations out there that are not liked by general public, lawyers and insurance agents are examples, and Kinnear plays an agent who's also a compulsive liar and he sees a golden opportunity that could be used to his advantage. The story is basically told through his perspective, his character, Mickey, is not necessarily a protagonist but then again, the story doesn't actually have a protagonist to root for, because even the ones that get away with the prize don't grant themselves something likable, and because Micky finds himself digging deeper and deeper into problems with every unwise choice he makes, part of you would feel a bit sorry for the fella. As I said earlier, THIN ICE sorta takes style from Coen Bros' crime drama/thriller/comedy, even Mickey reminds me of Michael Stuhlbarg's character in A Serious Man, situations for them just worsen, no matter what they do, there'd be times when they think they've got it all figured out but they actually don't.
One credit I'd give THIN ICE is that unless somebody tells you that it's a con film, you probably wouldn't have guessed it from the get-go but halfway trough the film, you can kinda start sensing something's off and start piecing it together. I'm a tropical boy, so I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must've been for Arkin, Kinnear, and Crudup to be out there in dead winter, I'd freeze my ass off and wouldn't be able to say my lines correctly. I think the film was poorly edited and it could've used a more chilling score. Crudup is a treat to watch here because his character is unpredictable, unstable, psycho scary and because of that he also comes off funny, I've never seen Crudup this way on screen and so to see him do it so well, is refreshing, definitely not an actor you'd underestimate. Perhaps if the writers, the Sprechers, where to give Mickey more depth, thus allowing Kinnear to showcase more. That would certainly compensate for everything else that's lackluster about THIN ICE.
-- www.Ramascreen.com --
It takes some time to get going, granted, but when it does it's good, real good. Greg Kinnear is fantastic as is Billy Crudup and Alan Arkin. It pulls you into it's eerie intensity and takes you on a bit of a ride, sometimes comical. This is listed as a comedy??? Somewhat, but more a crime drama with some comedy. I actually felt real uncomfortable with the tension created in this film and how it develops is really cool. btw -I know it was edited from the original version of "The Convincer" and people who seem close to, or fans of, the Sprecher's, knock it pretty bad. Understandably, I guess in a way , but for most of us seeing it in the newer edit, like I said it's a good movie. Jus' sayin'.
Even if I disliked Thin Ice, I'd still have major sympathy for
co-writer/director Jill Sprecher, who seemed to have went through hell
and high water just to get this film a release. Thin Ice was originally
released to Sundance under the name "The Convincer," in a one-hundred
and fourteen minute cut that received strong reception from audiences
and critics. However, the studio that purchased the film insisted that
the score be redundant, the editing reworked, and the pace of the film
increased, making the picture ninety-three minutes instead of
one-hundred and fourteen. Sprecher, obviously embarrassed and
frustrated, has basically given up on Thin Ice and likely looks at it
as a sore spot on her career.
That note alone should make one hesitate before publishing something negative about the film. It makes me consider my position as an online film critic deeper, too. Here I am, a viewer of many movies a year (last year almost five-hundred) by choice, and I don't always take into account the effort it takes to make a picture and the stress that numerous people likely go under. Thin Ice is a perfect example of a film I hesitate to review because I feel as if I have not seen the real thing. The ninety-three minute cut has received mixed reception, contrary to the original films near-acclaim.
Regardless, I find Thin Ice - in and of itself - a solid crime caper. The story centers around Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), a third rate insurance salesman in a dire financial predicament, looking to invest in something that will increase his reliability, win back his wife, and get him out of the frigid, merciless conditions the Wisconsin cold has brought him. He teams up with another man to try and sell Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin), an elderly, senile farmer, insurance despite knowing the man doesn't have much money at all. When Mickey discovers he has an expensive-looking violin, he has it appraised only to realize it is slightly rare and valued at $25,000.
This seems all well and good until Randy Kinney (Billy Crudup), a local con-man with an unstable temper, discovers Mickey's plans and, in the process, kills one of Gorvy's neighbors. Now, in an effort to save his own skin, Mickey must work with Randy to cover up the murder, while trying to turn a profit from Gorvy, and sneakily sell his violin for what soon becomes an unruly amount of money.
One film that will cross nearly every mind that watches this film is Fargo, the Coen brothers classic. The entire picture seems like a spin off of the film, from the similar plotpoints to the locational weather to the darkly funny direction the film takes. Despite this, Sprecher and her sister Karen do a bold job of making this film stand on its own, simply because of the way events are piled on each other in a rapid-fire order and how the twist is tacked on at the end.
The acting, however, is the film's strongest feature, with Kinnear, Crudup, and Arkin being on top of their game in terms of convincing performances. Kinnear is a great everyman, but he has a way about playing a man who has a bigger, brasher internal view of himself in contrast to the way he actually appears. This kind of character's mannerisms are seen in the wonderful Little Miss Sunshine, where he played a father hellbent on selling success advice in a cheap twelve-step book. Here, he plays a deadbeat husband hellbent on selling insurance in a cheaply wrapped package and achieves the same level of success.
Meanwhile, Crudup's character is a tricky one to pull off. He is a character that requires the actor playing him to go from collective to explosive in a matter of seconds akin to a time-bomb. This works tremendously in contrast to Kinnear's "gotta keep everything subtle and cool" persona. Finally, it should come as no surprise Arkin is great here, but the role is made more special because it shows Arkin as something he rarely is - gullible.
Ultimately, there are issues in Thin Ice that need to be addressed. The pacing is a bit too fast and the opening is a tad sluggish when it should look to grab our attention. However, these are issues that I am almost certain wouldn't exist if the original cut had been released like it should've been. The product we are left with is pretty solid and an easy thing to recommend, but the entire thing almost feels like a cliffhanger that has no writer to complete it.
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup, and Alan Arkin. Directed by: Jill Sprecher.
This is one of those movies were what you see is not what is really
happening. Everything that happens is to mislead you to the surprise
ending. Mickey is an insurance salesman whom finds a new client with
the help of a new employee. The new client, Gorvy, is an elderly man
that is buying insurance for his house, but Mickey soon learns he also
possesses a valuable violin. Mickey is in a lot of debt and so decides
to swindle the old man.
What he learns days later, is that he was the only one whom was swindled. And everybody he thought he new was really someone else. I thought it was clever.
FINAL VERDICT: check it out, it's a great con.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't believe all the butter up tossed into the laps of the Sprecher sisters when they told critics more than 20 minutes of this film was re edited without their approval. Greg Kinnear is great as an insurance salesman pulled into a scheme to steal farmer Alan Arbus's violin worth 25,000 dollars only to have locksmith Billy Crudup murder the neighbor and blackmail Kinnear into helping him cover up the crime. The snowy streets, ice ponds and backwood bars provided a suspenseful atmosphere to this noir comedy/drama until just 90 minutes in a cheery narrative tells us the farmer staged the whole thing, a management office paid him to do it, etc. It just got me lost it was so long and talky. Like Roger Ebert noted, it was a great drama unfolding in the real and unplanned sense until the hokey voice over arrived. The Sprechers seem to have liked their characters so much they could not give them a negative resolution or denouement of any kind. It seems dad was selling insurance and maybe he wouldn't sign a life story release or they just couldn't hurt his feelings. I kept thinking "Push Billy Crudup into the ice pond, you idiot. Make up your mind about something." Unfinished film project rates a D plus.
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