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Thin Ice Movie Review

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Movies about the workplace don't tend to pick up much traction at the multiplexes, a destination most people flock to in order to flee their jobs. But that never held back the Sprecher sisters, Jill and Karen (Clockwatchers, 13 Conversations About One Thing), from mining combo exuberant mirth and malevolence out of office drudgery.

Directed by Jill Sprecher and co-written with sister Karen, Thin Ice is their latest venture into a daffy when not devilish dissection of the human rat race. Set in the frigid backwoods of Kenosha, Wisconsin, this seemingly incongruous bible belt noir stars Greg Kinnear as Mickey, a cynical insurance agent hustler presiding over a seedy office with little business. But convinced that he's perfected the art of seducing if not conning prospective customers into buying whatever need he might be selling of suspect value, Mickey cruises hotels on the prowl for gullible guests.

Unfortunately for Mickey, he may not be such a top notch scoundrel as he would like to believe. An inebriated woman he targets at a hotel bar later relieves him of all his own assets instead. And Mickey's fed up wife (Lea Thompson) is on to him and a few of his serial infidelities, and has tossed him out.

But good fortune seems to accidentally come his way, when Mickey is summoned to the farm of Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin). An eccentric and presumably senile immigrant, Gorvy is sized by Mickey as a confused old man who can be conned into signing up for anything. Including a scheme to bilk Gorvy out of enormous proceeds from selling his priceless antique violin to an appraiser (Bob Balaban) who stops by.

But problematic events ensue when a deranged ex-con (Billy Crudup) turned locksmith also visits the farm, to install an alarm system. Leading to an unscheduled, downward spiral of deception, convoluted crimes and hasty coverups.

Originally titled The Convincer - but probably more appropriately switched to the exceedingly apt notion of a guy on Thin Ice - the story sets just the precise tone, balanced between comical antics and murkier surprises. And though a bit on the lengthy side with an overload of conversation when more attention to mood and atmosphere would have sufficed, Thin Ice gets it just right when wildly conning the audience, with a character-driven abundance of shrewdly crafted storytelling.

ATO Pictures
Rated R
3 stars

Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact Prairie through NewsBlaze.

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