Okay, kids, here’s our movie recipe of the week: Take one part Fargo and mix in two parts Cedar Rapids. Now get a studio involved and heavily dilute any possible ambiguous aftertastes, and then finish with a big twist that isn’t very satisfying but makes the whole thing go down easy. That is, unless you think about it.
Greg Kinnear’s sleazy insurance agent Mickey Prohaska, a borderline sociopath of a salesman, might initially remind you of characters from John le Carré’s A Perfect Spy, or maybe even a more pathetic Willy Loman. But this salesman, despite his craven opportunism, isn’t dying — he’s just a hapless moron who can be taken as easily as he takes others. And sadly, that’s all this movie wants to serve up.
Our story begins with Mickey at a sales convention, which feels like it’s happening across the street from the one where Ed Helms lets go of his puny inhibitions in Cedar Rapids. Expertly ripped off by an apparently drunken floozy, Mickey goes home after hiring a seemingly naïve new salesman. Later, the newbie leads him to Gorvy (Alan Arkin), an old man with a “famous” violin, which Mickey then decides to steal, thus unleashing a series of nightmarish obstacles, many of which involve an ex-con locksmith played with peculiar intensity by Billy Crudup. The premise is loosely presented, and the film begins with what seems like a deft improvisational flair, reaching a nice fever pitch after the locksmith brutally murders Gorvy’s innocent neighbor and insists on hiding him under a frozen lake.
But when the whole dish arrives, you may feel it was thrown together by too many chefs. Reports allege that this version is much different — and much thinner — than the one moviegoers first saw at festivals. And despite a wealth of fine acting ingredients, and a nice smattering of humor and fear, Thin Ice ultimately boils down to an “explaining” epilogue cheesily delivered by Mickey. I won’t spoil it describing why, but by then, the whole thing just tastes a little funny.