Set in a chilly Wisconsin, this gently comic crime caper arrives with a bit of a backstory: After its mildly approving Sundance debut under the name The Convincer, it was bought by a finicky distributor, shorn of 15 minutes, rescored and, to some degree, rethought. It's uncertain whether director Jill Sprecher wants to call the film her own anymore, but take it on good authority that, even in the best of possible worlds, this raw material can't have been better than a Fargo wannabe, with half-smart schnooks falling into fatal mistakes.
Meanwhile, that's not such a terrible thing, if you're into watching a Fargo without a Marge. Greg Kinnear, always a fine player of pathetic middle-age desperation, is a life-insurance salesman who hatches a scheme upon meeting doddering local oldster Gorvy (Arkin), a sweet guy with a valuable violin. The ensuing intricacies are far from delicious or wicked; they involve an unpredictable pet and a semi-shrewd locksmith (Crudup, working the blue-collar mustache). It's hard to care much about the entrance of an unexpected operator, turning the tables on everyone. When a movie is this predicated on aping the Coen brothers (effectively, it should be added, in fits and starts), surprise won't be its strong suit.
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