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ATO Pictures

What the agent thawed

Profile image for By Boo Allen / Film Critic
By Boo Allen / Film Critic

‘Thin Ice’ sets dominoes falling in character study

Think of Thin Ice as Wisconsin’s Fargo.

 The new work from the filmmaking Sprecher sisters uses their native Wisconsin for a probing look at a tortured man. He gives few clues as to why he behaves the way he does, but his troubles escalate even more when he meets someone more terrible than he is.

The Sprechers, Karen the writer and Jill the director and co-writer, turn out too few movies. Thin Ice is their third in 15 years — after Clockwatchers and Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. Their films are obvious labors of love, as evinced by the care put into them. Thin Ice also shows this intense attention, with a well-crafted story complementing the consistent directoral touches that can be seen, and appreciated, with close viewing.

Besides the cold and snow, Thin Ice resembles Fargo by also examining the destructive consequences of an unintended act. And then, the outcome that could have been averted is only set into motion by someone doing the dumbest thing imaginable.

This willful ignorance marks a defining flaw in Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear): If he had done the right thing at first, none of the bad would have come later. But then we’d have no movie.

Prohaska owns a Kenosha, Wis., insurance agency. He gives motivational speeches and is a local business success. But he stretches the truth constantly, to put it lightly.

Even when he tries to do the right thing, he messes it up, such as in the opening scene when he declines the advances of an amorous drunk. He has his billfold stolen, however, and is later blamed by his already estranged wife (Lea Thompson) of infidelity.

Prohaska’s troubles compound when his newly hired agent (David Harbour) signs an eccentric farmer (Alan Arkin) to an expensive insurance policy for a recently acquired priceless violin.

From there, the Sprechers take their narrative into lands they’ve not explored. When Prohaska makes a wrong snap decision, it brings in an unhinged locksmith (Billy Crudup), a murder, false insurance claims and a constantly revolving plot that brings everything and everyone into question.

The Sprechers have crafted an involving story, one in which the twists and turns engulf the viewer while also providing some white-knuckle tension and suspense. And director Jill Sprecher has perfected this small jewel by taking the time to consistently polish her film with enriching details.

BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic for the Denton Record-Chronicle.

 

MOVIE RATING

Thin Ice*** 1/2

Rated R, 93 minutes.

Opens Friday at the Magnolia in Dallas.