Thin Ice, the latest from director Jill Sprecher, is a difficult movie to describe. At first glance, it is a con movie. Upon further examination, it becomes clear that Thin Ice is merely masquerading as a crime comedy. At heart, it is a dramedy about an insurance man’s mid-life crisis that flirts with the ideas and conventions of the con movie.
However, the main problem with Thin Ice has nothing to do with expectations. Sprecher seems legitimately invested in the idea of doing a con film, a definite departure from her other directorial works, but she where she falters is the script. Your typical con movie is tightly-written with barely an ounce of fat on it. Every scene serves a purpose and every character adds to the deception and intrigue. It could have something to do with the fact that I watched the director’s cut, but the movie moves at a glacial pace, taking almost 45 minutes before the crime in question even takes place. In the meantime, we are treated to a fair amount of time with leading man Greg Kinnear, who dances between charmingly deceptive and blatantly cruel in a way that can only be described as manic.
That’s where the Sprechers’ script (written by both Jill and sister, Karen) runs into even more problems. Its characters are unreliable. While one might expect this from a dubious sub-genre, such as the con film, it surpasses the required suspension of disbelief. Given that Mickey Prohaska (Kinnear) is supposed to be a smooth-talking insurance salesman, he never seems in control of his own life or the things going on around him, so his talents as a master of deceit and known liar are just too much to believe. However, Mickey isn’t the only victim of Sprechers’ script. Most of the other characters suffer the problem of most modern indie movies. They are quirky for the sake of being quirky. Quirkiness, with no real purpose, has no place in a con movie and Thin Ice suffers for this indulgence. When characters like Billy Crudup’s Randy in, oddly enough his most enjoyable performance in years, are introduced, they provide a pleasant distraction from the slow-moving story, but little else. While these seemingly unimportant characters are paramount to the film’s conclusion, in the bulk of the movie, they don’t do much for the story. More often than not, characters like Randy or Alan Arkin as Gorvy Hauer, and consequently, the script itself, feel like slaves to their idiosyncrasies more than actual characters.
Ultimately, the film tries to atone for its sins with its reveal. Anybody who knows anything about the con film knows that there’s the third act twist. The reveal of Thin Ice is enough to make me want to enjoy the rest of the film, but given that it’s a 15 minute segment of an hour and 50 minute movie, it just isn’t enough. Ultimately, Thin Ice is riddled with problems. The pacing is wildly uneven and the script itself is nothing to write home about, but a surprisingly charming performance by Billy Crudup and an interesting twist save it from being a total waste of time.
Thin Ice was released on blu-ray and DVD on June 12. The blu-ray features a behind the scenes featurette, a short segment on its premiere at Sundance, deleted scenes, as well as two versions of the movie, both the theatrical cut and a director’s cut.