Greg Kinnear, left, and Billy Crudup in a scene from "Thin Ice." / Special to GoPensacola.com
Two and a half stars (out of four)
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Two and a half stars (out of four)
Mickey Prohaska is falling apart.
An insurance salesman played impressively by Greg Kinnear, Mickey struggles as his business in sleepy Kinosha, Wis., begins slipping. His wife (Lea Thompson) has kicked him out, at least temporarily, because he went behind her back to buy a Cadillac (though there seems to be more to it than that). And at a drab insurance convention, a woman is insistently hitting on him.
And that's just for starters. Director Jill Sprecher, who also co-wrote the script, piles on problems large and small in "Thin Ice," though most are of Mickey's making. It's an entertaining film and a deceptively gritty thriller, and Kinnear conveys Mickey's mounting desperation in winning fashion. The guy is slimy, but thanks to Kinnear's offbeat charm, you can't help but hope that maybe things will work out for him.
Some may think of it as jayvee Coen brothers or Hitchcock -- the influences are obvious -- but Sprecher brings her own style to the movie.
Once Mickey wakes up in the hotel where the convention is being held, the woman is gone and, he tells the hotel clerk, so are his credit cards. While checking out, he bumps into Bob (David Harbour), a fellow salesman he thought of as a rube whom a rival has just hired. Mickey hires him away on the spot, out of petty jealousy as much as anything. He's small that way.
Mickey doesn't count on Bob's effort. When he has a line on a policy for Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin), a simple old man who lives with his dog, Mickey naturally big-foots his employee and takes over the transaction, though he isn't thrilled with the size of the policy. But a chance visit from a violin appraiser (Bob Balaban) piques his interest -- and his greed.
Mickey is desperate for the money -- a considerable amount -- the instrument is worth, as his escalating schemes to swindle it away from Gorvy suggest. This leads to disagreeable dealings with Randy (Billy Crudup), a security-alarm man who evidently has anger-management problems, if not bigger issues. The scenes with Mickey and Randy together are among the film's best.
Events grow more and more sordid and violent; note Kinnear's eyes as he senses everything slipping away. What's left of his relationships begins to crumble; his condescending interactions with his secretary (Michelle Arthur) are priceless.
This is a thriller, so it's probably fair warning to say you should be on the lookout for clues, but really, I'm not sure it would help. The resolution is complex and surprising, but it's a little too out-of-nowhere, though it does explain what had seemed like an unusual framing device.
But it's still fun. Again, Kinnear is outstanding -- he is an underrated actor sorely in need of more roles like this.
Crudup, too, gives his character a sense of purpose, if a misguided one. Harbour, Arkin and especially Arthur are also good. These are all people with secrets, people whose lives are not exactly what they seem. Some are better at hiding that than others.
Don't be fooled by the offbeat tone, almost goofy in places, that Sprecher sets. The humor is welcome, but the business these folks become mired in can be serious -- deadly serious. That is not always a successful mix, but it works often enough to make "Thin Ice" a compelling film, a mystery worth solving even when you're not sure it's unfolding.