Thin Ice

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thin ice
Greg Kinnear has the perfect fact for this part.

Sometimes seeing so many movies can be a problem. How can a film lover or critic watch this movie and not think of Fargo, The Red Violin, House of Games, Criminal, and John Dahl’s The Last Seduction? Heck, even the violin shop is called Dahl’s Violins.

Yet, I had no problem with the lack of originality this picture had, because I was enjoying every second of the dark paths this noir film took us.

You couldn’t cast a better sleazy salesman than Greg Kinnear. And, when he was selling insurance to a clueless old man played by Alan Arkin, I thought about how Arkin once played an insurance salesman that had ethics (Big Trouble with Peter Falk).

You may also think about Arkin and Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine; but this is anything but sunshine. It’s freezing snow and slush in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Kinnear has an on again/off again relationship with wife Lea Thompson (Back to the Future, J. Edgar). The show is stolen by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous), who hasn’t had a role this good since playing runner Steve Prefontaine. He’s the locksmith that ends up working with Kinnear on a scheme that quickly spirals out of control.

One of the most interesting character actors (Bob Balaban) has a small part as a violin shop owner/appraiser. I’ve been enjoying his role in films going back to Catch-22 and Absence of Malice, and most recently as the leader of the focus group for The Wizard of Oz at the Oscars (he’s a Christopher Guest regular). If Kinnear has the look of a salesman, Balaban certainly has the look of an authority on valuable string instruments.

It takes a lot for a movie to make me think about it hours later, and this is one of those experiences. Little scenes like Kinnear stealing a new hotshot salesman (DavidHarbour) from a competitor, and that salesman annoying Kinnear with the various ideas he has.

This movie was written by women I will now call the “Coen sisters” – Karen and Jill Sprecher (Jill also directed). They gave us the interesting Clockwatchers almost 15 years ago.

In a few interviews, they’ve talked about how after the movie was well received, but that they didn’t have final cut. Producers took over the film and did a lot of editing which they weren’t happy about (one of those things includes 20 minutes they felt shouldn’t have been cut). I’d really like to see their original version, because this was one sharp little thriller.

You cringe watching the nice Midwestern folks being played like a violin, and when you watch each string break from the weight of Kinnear’s greed and stupidity – you’ll be glad you caught this.

I’ve always thought of “Thin Ice” as two good songs (from Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull). I can now add that it’s a good movie from two sisters.

It might only be at the Hillcrest Landmark for another week, so hurry.

It gets 4 out of 5 stars.

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