Thin Ice Blu-ray Review
Set in the cold snowy months of Wisconsin, THIN ICE follows an insurance salesman trying to pull a scam over an old man’s valuable violin that goes terribly awry. Director Jill Sprecher co-wrote the script with her sister Karen Sprecher who delivers a nice “idea” of a dark comedy with a decent production and some excellent actors.
Struggling insurance salesman, Mickey Prohaska, (Greg Kinnear) thinks he has it all figured out, when in truth he is struggling to make ends meet. Giving advice, speaking at insurance functions, running up credit to make the appearance of success, Mickey is putting on a show more than anything. As he is manipulating a kind new salesman named Bob Egan (David Harbour) into working for him, Mickey is introduced to Bob’s possible new client Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin). Gorvy is a lonely old man with a dog and a house full of old stuff. When a violin appraiser stops by to let Mickey know that Gorvy’s violin is worth a lot of money, Mickey seizes his opportunity to catch up on his increasing debt. Unfortunately things don’t go as smooth as possible and when he unknowingly gets the crazy loose canon locksmith Randy (Billy Crudup) into the mix, a man ends up murdered. The two are reluctantly in this together as they bury the body and the wild ex-con Randy blackmails Mickey.
In some respects, THIN ICE plays out a lot like the Coen brother’s magnificent FARGO, capitalizing on some interesting characters doing bad things in comedic ways through a freezing snow-filled setting. However, the big problem with THIN ICE is the absence of a genuinely likable lead character to follow. Kinnear does an amazing job as usual giving sympathy to a guy who I believe doesn’t want to be bad, but the fact is he is bad, taking advantage of really good people. Imagine, not having Frances McDormand’s wise pregnant cop Marge as the lead in FARGO, but instead only following William H. Macy’s Jerry, the hapless car salesman who arranged his wife to be kidnapped thinking it would be harmless. Yeah, it doesn’t work don’t you know.
In the special features, there’s mention of Mickey’s character not being black or white, good or evil but rather that middle ground grey. I would have to disagree with this statement as the grey definitely leans toward the dark spectrum. While the ending is a fun reveal (perhaps a foreseeable stretch, but fun nonetheless) that makes up for the unlikeability of Mickey’s actions, the fact is we still go through the journey of THIN ICE a little frustrated with everything. To the film’s credit there is a quirky lightness to it all, mostly due to the actors performances but also to the constant obstacles that come across Mickey’s way. There’s always a catch to whatever his next step is and Mickey never seems to be prepared or in the clear. I think if given THIN ICE a chance, most audiences will come away pleasantly surprised.
When choosing which version of THIN ICE to watch between the Theatrical Version or Director’s Cut, your guess is as good as mine. Both are considerably different from one another but the resulting story is still the same. I rarely say this, but I might side with the theatrical version simply because it is about twenty minutes shorter. Yes, the director’s cut puts things together a little nicer but even then the overall quality of the film isn’t quite to the level of necessarily needing more and works better as a quicker pace even if it is a bit more choppy.
Video: (1080p, 2.35:1) This visuals give off a bluish gray palette perfect for setting the audience in with the chilly wintery feel of the picture.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) A great sound to match the THIN ICE video quality.
Behind The Scenes of Thin Ice (24:58): This is pretty extensive and informative with interviews from everyone involved and a first hand look at decisions while scenes are being filmed.
Sundance Premiere Featurette (3:48): The cast and director give a little intro talking about THIN ICE on stage before its premier.
Deleted Scenes (9:49): One of these shows up in the newer cut but a lot of these just explain some of the unsaid assumptions that are missing in the film.