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Thin Ice (a.k.a. The Convincer)

(2011) ** R
93 min. ATO Pictures. Director: Jill Sprecher. Cast: Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup, Alan Arkin, David Harbour, Bob Balaban, Lea Thompson.

/content/films/4360/2.jpgI'd be very surprised if there were a single review of Thin Ice that didn't mention Fargo, the Coen Brothers' endlessly imitated crime-caper comedy of errors. Like Fargo, Thin Ice (a.k.a. The Convincer) concerns a slippery suit—willing to compromise morals for a payday—who gets himself into an escalating heap of trouble against a snowy, icy Midwestern backdrop. And yet, Thin Ice owes just as much, if not more, to the work of David Mamet, for reasons the filmmakers make painfully obvious from the film's very first scene.

Greg Kinnear plays Mickey Prohaska, an insurance salesman in wintry Wisconsin who thinks he's struck gold in aging, addled client Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin) Mickey poaches from his blithe underling (David Harbour). Mickey's plans to take advantage of Gorvy by swindling him out of a valuable violin go deep south, especially when Mickey winds up tangling with a character even more shady than himself: crooked home-security installer Randy Kinny (Billy Crudup). Soon, there's a corpse complicating matters, and Mickey's dreams of big money may turn into a nightmare of the Big House.

Were it not for a horribly transparent bit of narration in those opening moments, Thin Ice would have a better shot at working on its audience the way the filmmakers obviously hoped it would. As it is, the movie is really only worthwhile for its performances, especially the canny ones by Arkin and  Crudup (Kinnear's work, too, is always a pleasure, even saddled with the bland character here). There's something to be said for the feat of plot construction by Sprecher and her co-writer (and sister) Karen Sprecher, but since they bauble the ball—and since the journey from Point A to Point Z is more tiresome than tense and more flaccid than funny, Thin Ice winds up being pretty much a waste of time. That said, if you seek the film out, make sure you see the director's cut (The Convincer) rather than the studio cut (Thin Ice): might as well watch the version the filmmakers intended you to see.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/12/2012

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

On a single Blu-ray disc, Fox releases Jill Sprecher's latest film in both the Theatrical Version (1:33:08) that gives the disc its title—Thin Ice—and the Director's Cut (1:49:19), under the film's original title of The Convincer. Both versions look quite nice in high-definition, with the filmmakers' color correction intact—for the intended blue-filtered, cold look—and solid detail and texture. No problems with the audio here, either; though the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixes don't light up the rear channels much, they get the job done when it comes to the music and dialogue of this low-key outing.

All referring to The Convincer, the bonus features give some nice behind-the-scenes glimpses at the movie's making. "Behind the Scenes of Thin Ice" (24:58, HD) goes into surprising detail with set footage and interviews that cover all of the principal cast and crew. The "Sundance Premiere Featurette" (3:48, HD) offers the high-speed version, and we also get a collection of uninspiring "Deleted Scenes" (9:49, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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