Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thin Ice (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Thin Ice

"Thin Ice" directed by Jill  Sprecher (who directed the highly regarded "Thirteen Conversations about One Thing" ) is an entertaining lark of a film. It has a lively comic tone provided by Greg Kinnear and Billy Crudup. It is a double cross-type of caper film and even if the winter Midwestern setting setting seems all too familiar ala "Fargo", it still makes for some fun gallows humor. 

Kinnear stars as Mickey Prohaska a sociopathic insurance agent who is always looking for an edge. Prohaska is so conniving he steals flowers from his wife and gives them to his secretary. This guy's all heart and even he's not the worst. Overall, the characters have a "Glengarry Glen Ross" flavor to them, which is not as refreshing as it could be, but worth a salute similar in the manner of seeing old friends.

Mickey ingratiates himself to an older client Gorvy (Alan Arkin). who is ever so slightly like a Russian Mister Magoo. After an initial consultation, a violin expert (Bob Balaban) approaches Mickey about the old man's valuable strings. Mickey gets the idea to swipe the violin. His pathological lust for cash puts him in touch with psychotic trucker Randy,(Billy Crudup). Randy doesn't play it exactly straight, he is a total cartoon of a "psycho, part Road Runner, part Nicolas Cage with a dash of Martin Riggs from "Lethal Weapon". You will feel a hypertensive hilarity in simply watching this loon. Crudup is more hopped up than Dennis Hopper on those violet vapors. One wonders how far he will go. Both Kinnear and Crudup make a kind of pathological Abbott & Costello team. Things go from bad to worse and then further south  still and the film will have you both laughing and shaking your head in disbelief. 
Director Jill and her sister Karen Sprecher are known as the Coen Sisters because of their shared Midwestern origins. In "Thin Ice", the Coen influence is unmistakeable, but one note of caution: there are so many plot twists, turns and labyrinths in their double-cross designs that I was honestly dumbfounded. It just didn't make sense. But perhaps, like an opiate-enriched O. Henry story, you can just go with it. 

Apparently Jill Sprecher is rumored to have been deeply  displeased with the final cut of the film and said she thought of removing herself from the project. As Sprecher is a talented filmmaker of entertwining existential vignettes, I can only wonder what her ultimate vision of this film might have been, or what she may have enhanced, added or altered. This mystery is curious in itself and adds an extra dimension to the Coenic confusion known as "Thin Ice" that will defy the logic of any  Hitchcockian high-priest equipped with his mantra of MacGuffins. But so be it and go see it,  for all its perforations in pat logic, "Thin Ice" makes for a brazen brouhaha---a maladroit microcosm of  zany malcontents.

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