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How Did ‘Thin Ice’ Fall Through the Cracks?

February 21, 2012

On paper, it sounds like a rock-solid indie combo: A Fargo-ish crime thriller that reunites Little Miss Sunshine relatives Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin. So why did Thin Ice virtually vanish without a trace at the box office this weekend? The answer may be as complicated—and convoluted—as the movie’s plot itself.

Playing against his good-guy looks almost as chillingly as he did in the great Bob Crane biopic Auto Focus, Kinnear stars as Mickey Prohaska, a cash-strapped Kenosha, Wisconsin insurance agent whose scam to steal a valuable violin from a seemingly addled old man (Arkin, still sharp as a tack) turns murderous. His unlikely partner in crime is an unhinged, ex-con locksmith (the compelling Billy Crudup, who seems destined to remain Almost Famous). But, as we’re told early on, nothing is as it appears.

For the first hour-plus of the film’s lean 93-minute running time, the story spins out methodically, as the noose tightens around Kinnear’s neck and he scrambles to find a way out of the bloody mess he’s made. The cast is flawless—Bob Balaban, David Harbour and the criminally underused Lea Thompson all contribute stellar supporting turns. Then, jarringly, it feels like someone hits the fast-forward button and the rest of the complex plot is wrapped up hastily and confusingly in a voiceover by Kinnear and before you know it, the movie’s over.

So who’s the culprit behind this botch job? Apparently not director Jill Sprecher, who cowrote the film with her sister Karen and previously collaborated with Arkin on the exquisite 2001 indie drama 13 Conversations About One Thing. According to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the film was taken away from her by the upstart studio that produced it, Werc Work Works, and recut to speed it up. Oscar-winning editor Stephen Mirrione (Traffic) was dismissed, and the film’s title was changed from The Convincer (granted, not a great name, but it makes sense once you see the movie) to the painfully generic Thin Ice.

So what could’ve been a snow-job crime classic along the lines of Sam Raimi’s underappreciated 1998 gem A Simple Plan will instead beat a quick path to DVD and Blu-Ray, where it’s rumored both versions of the film may be released. Then maybe we’ll see if Sprecher really deserved to be frozen out.

Will you catch Thin Ice before it disappears from theaters? Post a comment!

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