Thin Ice

A movie that ends up charming you precisely because every character is a low-life cad.

Thin IceThin Ice gives a good name to cinematic depravity. Let me just say that if you loved Fargo then you should not miss this film. No, it’s not as fundamentally good, but it has a group of wonderful actors who breathe life into unlikable people.

Quite frankly, there is very little that I can tell you about the plot of Thin Ice as it would completely destroy it. In a sense it would be like telling you in advance that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Shutter Island was both delusional and fundamentally insane, thus robbing you of the payoff. That would have been a horrible thing to reveal, and Thin Ice leaves you in similar territory.

Let me just say that the very accomplished Greg Kinnear plays a Wisconsin insurance agent whose life is in a profound state of collapse. Separated from his wife and facing gigantic financial problems, he ends up at a state convention where a one-night-stand adds one more regrettable incident to his miserable life.

Hiring a new employee that he meets at the convention, he returns home where he attempts to sell insurance to an addled old man played by the always charming Alan Arkin. In the process, he learns that Arkin is the owner of a very expensive antique violin, and he makes the unfortunate decision to try to relieve the old man of his property.

Misbehavior ensues largely in the person of Randy, played by the tragically under-appreciated Billy Crudup. Here, Crudup is an ex-con who has been called upon to install some security equipment in Mr. Arkins’ home, and what happens from then on in is nothing short of delicious mayhem. Crudup’s high-strung psychopath is as genuinely funny as he is perverse, and it is his best role since playing J. Edgar Hoover opposite Johnny Depp’s Dillinger in Public Enemy (2009).

Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted. Did Crudup really murder a man in Kinnear’s presence, thereafter disposing of the body in a nearby frozen lake? Is Arkin really a pathetic old man dancing on the edge of Alzheimers? Can the wonderful Bob Balaban really be trusted as an expert in the violin field who continually provides advice that taunts Kinnear to the edge of madness?

If you love Kinnear, this is a film you should hunt down. He has done some remarkably entertaining films, and he continually flies under life’s radar screen. Think of his tiny role in Baby Mama (2008); his performance as Dick Vermeil in the overlooked Invincible (2006); and his role in the spectacular The Matador (2005), there playing a character who wasn’t too far from his performance here as Nicky Prohaska.

More to the point, he once again plays a likeable loser who is continually duped as a result of his terminal lack of good sense. He is a con man’s dream target, and he finds it impossible to ever possess a gun with a decent bullet. On the other hand, there simply ain’t no quit in the old boy, and the unanticipated ending is likely to leave you with a bit of a smile on your face.