When we first meet Micky Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), he’s sitting at a grass shack bar in a tropical resort having a drink. Whatever happened before this is the reason he’s here, and as he stares into the sky, his voice gives us the opening, and we know it will follow us throughout the film. This is, after all, Mickey Prohaska’s story.

Whatever happened, it clearly didn’t kill him. Did it make him stronger?

Mickey is an insurance salesman from Kenosha, Wis. Having been there personally, I can tell you we’re in semi-“Fargo” country, which much of the film copies flat out. Mickey lives on the edge. He is divorced, because one of his money-quick ideas apparently went broke, and it was her (Lea Thompson) money that washed away.

Now, he’s stuck with his two room, maybe three if you count the hallway/office, with a reluctant secretary/bookkeeper Karla (Michelle Arthur), who has her hands full trying to juggle the books and keep Mickey from losing what’s left of his business.

This is where I have to start watching everything I say because “Thin Ice” is two stories, the one we’re watching unfold and the truth of the matter which comes roaring out of nowhere in the final 15 minutes. There are two old movie titles that come to mind, which I will not use, because they will get you thinking, and if you’re a movie buff, you’ll put it all together. I don’t want you thinking. I want you to get on this bus and take the ride with these wonderful people, and run into that brick wall finale like I did. That’s going to be half the fun. When you find out, you’ll either be stunned or chuckle and say you knew all along. That’s all.

This is the bare-bones plot. Mickey stumbles into the frozen world of Gorvey Hauer (Alan Arkin), a befuddled old survivor of the “Greatest Generation” who is thinking about insuring his house, which looks like it survived the 1930’s dust storm and was abandoned by the Joads of “Grapes of Wrath.” He also wants to insure his 1956 Zenith television which keeps going out. Greg fixes that by simply plugging it in.

Gorvey has a cute old dog, Petey, who snaps at strangers and sings when Gorvey snaps the strings on his ancient violin. The violin is front and center in this plot. It’s what Alfred Hitchcock called, a “McGuffin,” or plot device that the whole film is built around. Keep an eye on this violin, or as “Deep Throat” would say, “Follow the money.” That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Into this frozen world comes the quirky and delightful Randy (Billy Crudup) a twitchy, gum-chewing ex-felon who now sets up home security systems. Randy is one of the characters that needs a full-out power player like Crudup to do him. Crudup is a master at those kinds of roles that are like rolling hand grenades with the pin out.

Where else do you look when he’s rolling?

Mickey has convinced Gorvey that this is a good idea. Randy has more ticks than a tiny five dollar alarm clock, (“It was my mother’s birthday.”) which he tries to steal from the old man’s dresser. Mickey recognizes a con man when he smells one and together, maybe, he thinks, they can make a few semi-honest bucks off the old man’s dilemma. But Mickey doesn’t know how deep the rich veins of duplicity and darkness go in Randy’s soul.

There is precious little I can say beyond this, except to unpack a few other items like props: A ball peen hammer, blood-stained rug, a slab of cattle meat, the ancient violin which may or may not be something Stradivarius would have envied. The other cast members: David Harbour as Bob Egan, a new employee Mickey hires to front for him in the Gorvey deal. Sherri the blonde pick-up at the casino who knows her way around credit cards, and Petey the dog. Scattered around the edges are a few characters who will emerge as players in the finale. You can keep count on your own.

Three important things to watch: The frozen lake where a body will be deposited if the ice melts in time, the violin shop where the wonderful one-size-fits-all actor Bob Balaban explains the history of violins, and Chicago Union Station where a mysterious bag is passed from hand to hand.

“Thin Ice” is not “Fargo,” it only plays some of the same notes. It might have been much better, but we’ll never know because, and this is every film maker’s worst nightmare, ask Orson Welles.

Jill and Karen Srecher want us all to know “The producers and distributor of our film completely re-edited it without me. Nearly 20 minutes were cut; the structure rearranged; out-takes used; voiceover and characters dropped; key plot points omitted; a new score added. Although our names contractually remain on the film, my sister and I do not consider ‘Thin Ice’ to be our work.” Orson had the same disaster strike in his making of “The Magnificent Ambersons.” We’ll never know, but it makes little difference. “Thin Ice” gives us enough laughs to hold us over.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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