'Thin Ice' doesn't do much to improve public opinion of insurance salesmen. Here they're portrayed as swindling, charlatans who say things like "We don't want him to have too much coverage, right?" "There's no such thing." They're always looking out for their own self-interests and how much commission they can make on a potential client. However, what happens when greed becomes too much and murder enters the picture.
Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) is a pathetic insurance salesman who tries his hardest to put on the best face he can. He lives in perpetual winter, travels to insurance conventions, and loses all his money gambling, and is estranged from his wife because of his insistent lying. Mickey is everything you'd picture an insurance salesman to be. A guy who is worried about what kind of car he shows up to a sales call in.
Soon Mickey meets prospective client Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin). Gorvy is a nice old immigrant who needs some coverage. Of course Mickey tries to up the coverage as much as possible, explaining that at any time someone could slip on the ice on his walkway and sue him for all he's worth. Gorvy, the nice old man he is, takes Mickey at his word.
Gorvy doesn't seem like he's all there though. He forgets things and repeats the same thoughts over and over. Mickey sees a letter from a violin dealer which says that Gorvy has a very expensive violin sitting around the house. Mickey asks Gorvy about the letter, but the man doesn't register anything about the violin. In debt up to his eyeballs, and his insurance practice failing around him, Mickey sees an opportunity. Nab the violin and sell it himself.
One thing leads to another and Mickey finds himself embroiled in the murder of Gorvy's next door neighbor. The murderer is Randy (Billy Crudup), the local locksmith. Mickey isn't cut out for this kind of heat, but Randy is a career criminal.
The movie, like 'Fargo,' plays with dark comedy. The way Mickey's life spirals out of control is fun to watch seeing that he's such a deplorable man to begin with. You can't help but blurt out, "Serves you right," when everything starts mounting up around him and escape from his circumstances seem futile.
Kinnear is great as the caged man. A man trapped by his own greed and is now simply trying to survive. How does a man, who has never seen a dead body before, dispose of it? What does that do to his psyche? Does he continue to try to get money for the stolen violin, or does he think it's all gone too far? Watching Kinnear's performance is fun, but as the movie winds down the seams begin to come apart.
I felt like I was watching 'Lucky Number Slevin' all over again, as the ending comes and the entire movie is explained back to us in flashbacks and voiceovers. The movie has run out of steam and trips over itself. The flashback ending is a personal pet peeve, and what this one reveals seems improbable at best.
'Thin Ice' (originally known as 'The Convincer' when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival) is an enjoyable dark comedy which simply fizzles out once the ending arrives. It never seems surprising or original, and instead reeks of "I'm sure I've seen this before."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 20th Century Fox release. It comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. There is both a theatrical and director's cut on this disc. The difference between the two versions has nothing to do with length.. Instead each version has been scored differently. When the movie premiered at Sundance it was scored by Alex Wurman and Bela Fleck giving it more of an indie feel with banjos, pianos, and drums. The theatrical version has a much more mass-market score attached. Something you might here in a clichéd romantic comedy or something. That score was done by Jeff Danna. The theatrical version was also re-cut by the studio. The disc is packed in a standard size, eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase.
'Thin Ice' is filled with icy cinematography as the surroundings are mostly covered in icicles and banks of snow. The 1080p presentation sports an icy blue veneer, but features quite a lot of detail to go with it. Facial details like pores or the tears welling up in Mickey's eyes right after the murder are easily seen. Textures like the worn nature of the violin look great.
Darker scenes do harbor some noise. The grain is nice and consistent adding to the filmic quality of the movie. Contrast is nicely done, even though much of the movie features bright white snow that could've easily come across as too bright. Shadows are delineated well. Filmed recently, this is exactly how you'd expect it to look.
There isn't much in the way of whiz-bang sound effects going on here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is heavy on the talking and light on everything else. That's okay though since the sound design for 'Thin Ice' doesn't call for a whole lot of audio pyrotechnics.
Rear channels do get a chance to shine though, during a busy casino scene and a bustling train station. The sudden outburst of rage from Randy during the murder sends voices echoing throughout the channels. Dialogue is always intelligible. The score, on both versions of the movie, bleeds through the sound field offering a somewhat immersive feel. The problem is much of the rest of the movie doesn't feel enveloping in anyway. It simply does its job, but fails to wow.
The theatrical release of the film stinks of too much studio involvement, but the director's cut doesn't make the movie much better. I was intrigued for most of the film, and I did enjoy Kinnear's performance. We don't usually get to see him play such a conniving, dishonest man as he does here. 'Thin Ice' simply falls apart when it feels the need to explain the entire movie with a myriad of flashbacks at the end. The audio and video are done well though, so if you're interested in the movie you should give it a look before writing it off.