Working the long con and damn near getting away with it, this kissing cousin to Fargo, Cedar Rapids, and last year's Win Win is a surprisingly entertaining and nonderivative February time-passer, its wretched midwinter Wisconsin setting notwithstanding. (Minnesota subs in convincingly.) Greg Kinnear steps out of incredulous do-gooding sad-sack mode to play Mickey Prohaska, an independent insurance agent, low-level sociopath, and burgeoning grand larcenist. Thanks to a helpful but gormless colleague (David Harbour), Mickey foists a policy on seemingly naive farm widower Gorvy (Alan Arkin), who happens to own a million-dollar violin he knows nothing about. Things go sour when Mickey's attempt to steal the fiddle is fatally complicated by loudmouth psycho locksmith Randy (Billy Crudup) and continue to devolve despite — or because of — a sweet claim payoff from the agency home office. There's nothing in Thin Ice that hasn't been done before, and it's far from eye candy, but director Jill Sprecher gets impressively loose, funny, yet respectful performances from her cast and generally keeps the film moving along. Until it, like Mickey's plan, crumbles under the weight of its own contrivances, that is; it suffices to say that nothing — as the opening voice-over telegraphs — is quite what it seems. Fair enough for off-season, but ending the movie with a protracted, mostly verbal explanation of the ways in which we've been duped somewhat erodes the goodwill Thin Ice has built and accentuates its many improbabilities to boot.
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