‘Thin Ice’ is a smart tale of scheming insurance agent Greg Kinner

THE CLEVER little thriller "Thin Ice" has drawn comparisons to "Fargo," I guess because there's snow and crime and Midwesterners.

But there's more in the woodchipper here than just Coen-style subzero noir - some of the small-town moral introspection of "Win Win," the offbeat, off-the-interstate comedy of "Cedar Rapids."

There are other flavors, too, best left to the viewer to discover, but what they all add up to is something fun and fit for the slushy season.

A well-cast Greg Kinnear stars in "Thin Ice" as a slippery insurance agent whose elastic ethics are further stretched by financial trouble. He's dropped a bundle at an Indian casino and is about to drop another via divorce.

Desperate for cash, he poaches a doddering client (Alan Arkin) from one of his new agents (Greg Harbour), and starts liberally writing policies on the old man's rundown, remote farmhouse.

The actors have a lot of fun here. Arkin as a Norwegian farmer slowly losing his faculties, Kinnear as the desperate insurance man who makes sure the farmer is wildly overinsured.

Or is he?

Any viewer of "The Antiques Roadshow" knows there may be hidden treasures in them thar farmhouses, and soon Kinnear is on the scent - and so is a sleazy alarm system salesmen (Billy Crudup).

Director Jill Sprecher and sister/writer Karen Sprecher have applied several layers of plot to their chilly thriller, and it's a kick to watch it play out.

There are moments in "Thin Ice" that feel out of tune, when you think the performances are not quite right. But what's so neat about "Thin Ice" is the way perceived flaws are neatly folded into the story's resolution.

And the movie plays fair. The Sprecher sisters give you hints along the way about what they're really up to, and if you're smart you may pick up on them. If you are a different kind of smart, you'll sit back and enjoy the snowy ride.

Produced by Mary Francis Budig, Elizabeth Redleaf, Christine K. Walker, directed by Jill Sprecher, written by Jill and Karen Sprecher, music by Jeff Danna, distributed by ATO Pictures.

Thin Ice

Directed by Jill Sprecher. With Michelle Hutchison, Michelle Arthur, Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson, Bob Balaban, Greg Kinnear, Chris Carlson, Sue Scott, David Harbour, Alan Arkin. Distributed by ATO Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 34 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language, and brief violent and sexual content).