As someone who occasionally forms ideas and words together with the hopes of someday turning them into an actual bona fide story, the nightmare of having another person completely rewrite your work for the sake of making a moving picture more acceptable to “mainstream” (read: obtuse) moviegoing audiences is a completely realistic one to me. But even completing your opus the way you envisioned it isn’t always enough to make it through the cold dark tunnel of studio executivedom: sometimes, somebody is told re-edit your entire movie, re-title it, re-score it, and release it with a trailer that makes it look like you just reproduced Fargo. All without your permission, mind you.
Such is the case with The Convincer, a 2011 flick by Jill Sprecher and written by Jill and her sister, Karen — who started out in the industry with the 1997 chick flick, Clockwatchers. The girls have come a long way since then, bringing us this dark tale of all the things that can possibly (and sometimes impossibly) go wrong when one man’s greed gets the better of him. Greg Kinnear — an actor who has been in need of a part like this for a while now — stars as Mickey: a voracious insurance salesman with the ability to talk anyone out of anything. After hitting a new low point in his life both financially and professionally, Mickey soon stoops to another nadir when he learns one of his new clients (Alan Arkin) has a very rare, vary valuable violin in his possession.
Preying on his old punter’s senility, Mickey is soon trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes in a way he has never done before. Alas, his covetousness inevitably leads to the death of another at the hands of a psychotic home security feller (Billy Crudup), who takes a quick snapshot of our anti-hero standing over the fresh corpse as his own form of security: luring Mickey into an even further level of Hell from thereon in. Amazingly enough, the Sprecher Sisters simply do not leave it at that. Instead, their unique writing skills add an extra dimension to this dark comedy/mystery, instilling the script with a sub-layer of amazement that you don’t expect to encounter. To top it all off, you have a very professional cast of leads and supporting players delivering every line with as much artistry as they can muster — even in the cold Midwestern snow!
As a result, you have one of the better modern movies I’ve seen as of late. Sadly, studio executives apparently didn’t quite get it, so they hired a new editor and composer for the feature, and re-titled it Thin Ice — which is a somewhat pale copy of the original film. Fortunately, the Blu-ray release of this mini-masterpiece features both cuts of the movie, with the much better version — The Convincer — erroneously labeled as a “Director’s Cut.” The Blu-ray also contains several deleted scenes, some footage from its premiere at Sundance, and some behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew.
Recommended — though I wholeheartedly suggest watching The Convincer prior to Thin Ice.