Thin Ice

Year 2011

Alan Arkin as Gorvy Hauer
Greg Kinnear as  Mickey Prohaska  
Bob Balaban as Leonard Dahl
Billy Crudup as Randy
David Harbour   as Bob Egan
Director - Jill Sprecher
Screenwriter - Jill Sprecher  

Thin Ice is a flawed attempt to make a Cohen brothers style movie where there's supposedly witty dialog, a twisting plot, and the good guy isn't so nice. It's low key and it's plausible if you think that Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless' opinion of human intelligence was too forgiving.

The story is linear. An oily insurance salesman, Mickey Prohaska, finds a valuable violin at the home of proscpective client Gorvy Hauer. Because Gorvy is a bit eccentric, Mickey decides to steal the violin and sell it himself. Things go wrong. Then, about halfway into the movie, a plot begins to develop.

This is a caper film. By that I mean that there are marks and shills. At the beginning of the movie, Mickey is fleeced by a B-girl. (If you don't know what a B-girl is, she's a hooker who works businessmen and hangs around in bars. Her office location, a bar, is where the "B" comes from.)

Anyway, Mickey, who is attending an insurance convention at the time, reports the crime to the police and his wallet is returned sans cash but with the credit cards intact. If you're asking, "Doesn't he call the credit card company and cancel the cards anyway?" then you've already figured out part of the "caper". And if you didn't ask that question, then maybe you'll ask yourself why he hires some guy who he just met to work for his company.

Despite reviews promising a comedic noir thriller and plenty of twists and turns, I found it to be serious and straight forward. One of the best scenes in the movie, a meat truck at another bar, turned out not be a touch of symbolism after all because the movie couldn't handle anything that wasn't directly related to setting up the caper.

The lack of any symbolism, side stories, humor, or entrancing characters make this movie dull. The plot is too rail driven to provide any sense of suspense or involvement.

What did have me going was the reason for all of the shenanigans. I thought it was going to somehow be blackmail. The threat of blackmail was there, but it was used to ensure silence. At least in this movie. In real life, I doubt that the blackmail would have worked.

The movie does attempt some things. For example, narrowing the options open to Mickey is the crux of the plot. Greg Kinnear plays just enough of a self-serving simpleton that these manipulations are almost plausible. Scene stealer Billy Crudup as the screw loose locksmith Randy, keeps Mickey from thinking clearly and makes the plausibility greater.

What the movie does well includes the wrapping-up explanation at the end. Just because you can figure out who is doing what to whom within the first few minutes doesn't mean that you can understand the writer's illogic so easily.

Alan Arkin is, as always, entertaining. His accent changes, though. Sometimes it's mid-western, sometimes Scandinavian, and once German. This may have been deliberate. I can't imagine anyone as meticulous as he is allowing sloppy pronunciation to be inadvertant.

I'd promised my wife an entertaining movie and although I was embarrassed while the movie played, she said that it wasn't too bad and I shouldn't turn it off. So, it must have something watchable about it. I think it's the pair of Arkin and Crudup.

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