Fin (Tony Marino) is an ex-cop, private investigator, gun for hire type. If the price is right, he can probably be convinced to take almost any job. In this scenario, he becomes wrapped up in the death of a senator that crosses over into every aspect of his life, past and present. Figuring out who is pulling the strings, and why, is just one mystery to solve.
Derek Braasch’s The Icing is a complicated crime thriller that confuses too much plot for cleverness. With noir notes, including voiceover and a femme fatale, the film tries out many different ideas and tones, only to settle in a narrative mess.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: After the senator is killed, Fin shows up at the funeral to question the senator’s widow Marilyn (Kelly Lamont). She is alternately upset about Fin’s presence, and flirty, ultimately agreeing to meet him at his office for questioning where, again, she is combative and flirty. His response is to eventually tell her a heartbreaking story, complete with ending up on the couch, with his head in her lap, before the two get down and dirty with one another, complete with proclamations of love.
Eventually, the film does tie all the threads together and even justifies this insane interplay of emotional and motivational gear shifts, but that doesn’t mean that it works. It just comes off as absurd and unbelievable and, when the film explains everything else during its climax, it just seems needlessly complicated and still unbelievable.
Sometimes needlessly complicated and unbelievable works; I enjoy what Soderbergh achieved with his Ocean’s films along similar lines. But here? The plot might connect, but I never did with the material. There’s just too much going on.
A subplot with two extortionists seems to exist solely for comedic value, but does little more than derail the film (which, as it sneaks up on two hours, is too long as it is). It seems like every other character, whether you remember their name or not, also has an important role in the wrap-up. It’s fine in theory; I like that a filmmaker isn’t just trotting out characters for no reason, but does the increasing complexity of the tale make it more entertaining? Not really.
There were elements of the film I did enjoy. A cameo by Jim McMahon, while yet another subplot, almost steals the movie; McMahon does quiet cool better than most. An action sequence early on, while bonkers and over-the-top, set a fun, almost cartoonish tone that the film never comes near again. I wouldn’t have minded less serious-minded complexity and more humor, honestly; at least then you’d feel a sense of fun with the film.
Overall, The Icing suffers from a narrative ambition that ignores common sense, and thus often comes across as unbelievable and convoluted instead of interesting and clever. It has a lo-fi charm, almost like picking up a bad thriller from the ’80s (and the visual and audio presentation often reminds you of VHS), but that only goes so far.
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