Screenwriters Jill and Karen Sprecher (Clockwatchers) are locked into the insidious, unethical side of the insurance business in their latest comical, unnerving low-budgeter that maybe overextends itself but most will hard pressed to figure out where it ends up.
Thin Ice, directed by Jill, stars Greg Kinnear, Lea Thompson, Billy Crudup, and Alan Arkin and mines the gelid Northern Plains, specifically Kenosha, Wisconsin for all of its presumed goodness. Many may find it a watchable cross between the likes of A Simple Plan and Cedar Rapids or some of what was a huge recipe for success for "Fargo" and, going much further back, Double Indemnity.
The high-concept title refers to Kinnear's conniving, crestfallen agent Mickey (perhaps a relative to the Paul Giamatti character in Win Win) trying to convince potential customers he's still at the top of his game by giving seminars (like what Kinnear did in Little Miss Sunshine) at regional conferences (the setting for the aforementioned funny Cedar Rapids which worked off the unsuspicious, folksy nature of its inhabitants). But, his way around the truth has left him estranged from wife Jo Ann, a rare big-screen appearance of late from Lea Thompson.
Mickey stumbles on a new customer, a wheezing bachelor retired hoarder of a farmer Gorvy ( done with a hilarious air of senility by Arkin from Sprecher's Thirteen Conversations About One Thing) through a new, conned colleague Bob (an unpretentious David Harbour of Revolutionary Road) who is just really looking for someone to get his television working. It's an opportunity for the always helpful, exploited guy to turn the tables in his favor to provide more insurance for Gorvy and grab the commission in the process. Also, there's a violin in Gorvy's presence appraised by a luthier (Bob Balaban) that begins to show Mickey's more corruptible side and penchant to follow through on his mantra, "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see."
Like the cited Sam Raimi and Coen Brothers films, complications mount for a snake-bit swindler always caught in the midst of amusingly garrulous denizens, as the Sprechers smarmy gravitate towards a big twist predicated by coincidence. As well as the ominous presence from an ex-con locksmith, a scene-stealing Billy Crudup (who played J. Edgar Hoover in Michael Mann's Public Enemies).
Kinnear is well-suited (though not seemingly suited to weather the harsh elements) to the ideal to embody Mickey embroiled in lies, blackmail, even murder as an easy denouement relies on the ability to mislead maybe to be a little sinfully scheming. Though careful enough not to perversely (or metaphorically) cheat on its way through thin ice.