Written off as just another Fargo clone, Thin Ice is actually an intriguing black comedy with a lot to offer. First of all, I have a question for you, are all traveling salesmen actually con artists? Is there something more American than a man willing to travel great distances in order to convince you to buy something you really don’t need? That drive to get the money no matter what is what keeps the wheels of the economy turning. Keep in mind that the original title of this movie was The Convincer. Although I can see how Thin Ice fits the story much better as it’s set in Wisconsin (death trip).
Before we go any further, I must urge you to check out the director’s cut of this movie. After its premiere at the Sundance festival, studios demanded a lot of changes, trying to speed up the movie. The ninety-minute version of the movie is far inferior to the original 115-minute cut. With that out of the way, we can move on to the best part of Thin Ice, its cast. Greg Kinnear was phenomenal as the slimy and slick insurance salesman. Opposite of him, we have Alan Arkin, a true legend who gave another stellar performance.
The list doesn’t stop there as we also have Billy Crudup and David Harbour. All of them made Thin Ice or The Convincer a much better and more entertaining movie. And it really needed something because the storytelling is a bit uneven. You can feel the potency of the story as it keeps escalating and escalating but there was something missing. I can’t really tell what and I don’t it really matters. After all, we’re here to have some fun and not to analyze every little thing.
Mickey Prohaska is an insurance salesman looking to move from freezing Wisconsin to some sunnier state. Self-confident and always in control, he decides to show how it’s done to his new employee by helping him lock a deal with a forgetful elderly gentleman Gorvy Hauer. While at his house he accidentally discovers that Gorvy has a very valuable violin. A violin he currently uses to play fetch with his dog. And then and there the plan is born in Mickey Prohaska’s head. A plan that will get him out of snowy Wisconsin but he did not realize that sometimes things go wrong, very wrong.
Ultimately, I think that Thin Ice needed to be much darker. It’s the contrast between dark and light that makes these movies work so well. And it also generates a lot of tension. So, you should lower your expectations before watching this one, just in case. It all depends on your current mood and taste in movies. I, for example, really liked the ending that everybody seems to be whining about. You can also look at it as a fun character study featuring people you’re most likely going to meet at some point in your life. And I’m thinking you’re going to think twice next time you open your door and see a traveling salesman.
Director: Jill Sprecher
Writers: Jill Sprecher, Karen Sprecher
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Peter Thoemke, Lea Thompson, David Harbour
Fun Facts: Dahl Violins Shot was a real shop located in Minneapolis. It unfortunately closed recently but there’s a Facebook page dedicated to maintaining its legacy.