Thin Ice brings together some of my personal favorite (and I think somewhat under appreciated) actors in one fun and unexpectedly thrilling film. Greg Kinnear plays Mickey Prohaska, insurance agent extraordinaire who is an expert at talking people into buying something that many people don’t want, insurance. His life is in shambles, his business not doing well and his marriage on the skids. We meet Mickey at an insurance convention where he is robbed by a woman who he takes back to his room, after which he surreptitiously hires a new salesman, Bob Egan played by David Harbour, solely to steal the man from working with his biggest competition. Bob turns out to be a bit of a liability when he comes across Gorvy Hauer, played by Alan Arkin, when the elderly gentleman tells Bob that he is interested in an insurance policy for his home. Mickey cautions Bob to be careful as the elderly clients have a penchant for keeping you there just to talk and tend not to buy, but accompanies him on the appointment with Gorvy to make sure he doesn’t get sucked in by the old man. These two roles are superbly executed by Kinnear as the apathetic, predatory insurance agent only concerned with selling his next policy and his next commission and Arkin as the mild mannered, lonely, slightly goofy older man.
When Mickey is called back to Gorvy’s house because the man decides he wants a policy after all, we see his true colors as he doesn’t alert Bob, but rushes out in secret to ensure he keeps the commission on the policy to himself. Mickey finds himself in a predicament that I have found myself in a time or two when he is called out to Gorvy’s house to fix his TV under threat of the elderly man cancelling his policy, again appealing to Mickey’s greedy nature. While there, Mickey is confronted with a violin appraisal for an instrument that Gorvy doesn’t even seem to know he owns, but that turns out to be worth over $25,000. Mickey sees an easy way to make a fortune when Gorvy makes plans to go out of town and jumps into action, replicating the violin and concocting a scheme to switch the two instruments so he can sell the authentic piece and leave Gorvy with a fake. And here is where things really start to pick up. Enter Billy Crudup as the unstable, untrustworthy alarm installer Randy, who catches Mickey in the act. When Gorvy’s nosey neighbor finds the two men in the house despite Gorvy’s absence and mentions calling the cops, Randy loses it and kills the man, immediately insisting that Mickey is an accomplice and forcing him into covering up the crime.
What follows is plot twist after plot twist as the two men try to keep the murder from being discovered while still pursuing the sale of the instrument that started the whole thing, culminating in a climax that will make you take a second look at the entire film. Despite the controversy surrounding it, I think the actors’ portrayal of the characters and the attention to detail still allows for the original integrity of the film to come through. Though, there is definitely a little something missing,
This film is a fine example of what can happen when the right team comes together and actors really invest themselves in their characters. The chemistry between Kinnear and Crudup, as well as that shared by Kinnear and Arkin is just wonderful and gives the film it’s heart. They each truly took their characters on fully and embody them brilliantly. Crudup stands out as the completely bat-shit crazy Randy. He is amazing at playing this insane character, especially in the moments that he goes from 100 miles an hour crazy to calm and collected in less than half a second, which of course makes the character seem that much more unstable.
The details are where the story becomes real in Thin Ice and the cinematography on this film adds exponentially to the mood and the movement of the film. The feel that it gives makes all the difference in the way each scene is perceived and gives it a gritty reality. Also adding to the film, is the landscape and the constant snow. It really becomes integral to the story itself and almost becomes a character, as is pointed out in the special features.
- Behind the Scenes of Thin Ice: Great and humorous commentary from the cast, crew and creators makes the film even more interesting. Billy Crudup states that the first time you watch the film it’s like a crime drama and the second time is more of a dark comedy. Alan Arkin is a legendary actor, Crudup is always great and I grew up with Kinnear on Talk Soup, so I bought in to the cast right off the bat and thoroughly enjoy hearing them talk about a film which they obviously enjoyed working on together. There are great behind the scenes shots, some of the best I’ve seen of the actual action that takes place. To a wannabe filmmaker, this footage is fantastic.
- Deleted Scenes: These were quality and had substance. It did not feel like a waste of time watching them as so often is the case. Obviously they were deleted for a reason, but these moments did fill in a few holes and rounded the story out for me.
I truly enjoyed the special features, and would recommend watching them. The film itself is something I will watch again, if only to see what I missed the first time around, but I wouldn’t volunteer to do so if I didn’t enjoy it. There is a little depth missing from the story, something I imagine is the result of being recut, but the performances are stellar, with Crudup really bringing his A-game to his portrayal of Randy. I think he really shines and I admire him even more after watching Thin Ice. The same can be said for Arkin and Kinnear as well, I loved seeing these three together. The film is missing something, though I love the actors and their performances, their interaction and heart, it still misses the mark just a bit.
What is your favorite Billy Crudup film? Share in the comments!