Thin Ice
Director: Robert Harmon

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Thin Ice The fifth noirish telefilm with Tom Selleck's splendidly underplayed small-town police-chief is Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (2009). It's the first one not based on a specific Robert Parker novel, & does a fine job of preserving the integrity of Parkerish dialogue, character, & plot.

In an era where telefilms are looking cheaper & cheaper as they move to digital cameras that are cheaper to use only if you rarely have to move the equipment, & ghastly expensive if you want the film to look any good, Thin Ice is a rarity, still shot with real film. And by a fantastic cinematographer, Rene Ohashi. So it has the visual integrity of an A-budget a theatrical release.

So too in an era where television crime fiction is full of CGI that take you whizzing around inside bodies for bullet's-eye-view of forensic evidence, the Jesse Stone films all rely on old-fashioned footwork to get the crimes solved, has no CGI whatsoever, but only fine photography, fine cast, & solid plotting. And what a relief that is.

We won't know until the end what "Thin Ice" means specifically, though symbolically Jesse is treading on it throughout. Getting to the specific revelation takes us through the usual ingredients set in place in the previous films, as follows:

A scene of minimal interaction with doe-eyed Reggie (Joe the Dog); a scene of grief & conflict over his ex-wife; a scene of drinking though as an alcoholic he shouldn't do that; getting laid by yet another babe (this time by Leslie Hope as an Internal Affairs investigator whimsically named Sydney Greenstreet after a famed film noir actor); interacting with subtle sweetness with his deputies Suitcase (Kohl Sudduth, who since his brain injury in a previous episode believes himself to be psychic) & Rose (Kathy Baker as an earnest neophyte at investigation, whom Jesse is still grooming).

And inevitably there'll be the confrontation with the overbearing town council over his misbehavior in the small town of Paradise; visits with his friendly chainsmoking burnt-out ex-cop therapist in need of a therapist, Dr. Dix (William Devane); visits with a mobster "friend" Gino Fish (William Sadler) for strained interaction & underworld clues. And tossed in there somewhere is the solving of serious crimes.

Thin IceFollowing four films, by the fifth it is fairly formulaic, but in the manner of those old Columbo telefilms, the formula is too good to gripe about, & it's not like they're making way too many of these films, so it has not yet seemed redundant.

Somehow the moments in which Tom Selleck is alone with the dog or brooding over his scotch saying not one word are among each episode's most striking scenes, as Selleck really makes Jesse a richly textured interesting appealing though terribly troubled man, with depths of emotion felt by just looking at the guy.

The idea of solving serious crimes in a series of films set in a tiny town. where realistically seriouis crime would be uncommon, always risks seeming as trivial as the series Murder She Wrote in which weekly another friend or neighbor either kills somebody or is murdered.

To evade that trivializing pattern, Jesse's more violent crime-solving escapade in this case occurs off-the-books during a series of journeys to Boston, where he & a friend were assaulted in the night by gunfire. Jesse was winged. His city pal Commander Healy (Stephen McHattie) was hospitalized in very serious condition.

Thin IceHow Jesse unofficially tracks down the would-be killer (Fulvio Cecere) & underhandedly sets him up for a fall is the "tough" part of the film, providing the blood & violence element.

Pursuing a crime outside his jurisdiction, while neglecting writing revenue-generating parking tickets against tourists in Paradise, peeves the town council, who make his life hell for misbehaving, though he remains unflappable.

His neophyte deputy Rose meanwhile assists, or leads, in another off-the-books case. A grieving mother, Elizabeth Blue (Camryn Manheim), arrives in town with weak evidence that her kidnapped infant, who'd now be seven, could be living somewhere in Paradise with the boy's kidnapper.

In fact her infant's corpse was recovered long before & the case closed by New Mexico police. But she has ever since refused to believe anything but the hospital bracelet was her child.

This secondary case of "Little Boy Blue" provides the film's touching & sad bits, tracking down a pitiable kidnapper (Jessica Hecht), resolving as a moving tragedy. It's character interaction that counts most in Thin Ice, but a couple surprises in the plotline keep that interesting too. The film closes with a coda that sets up Jesse's employment situation for the next in the series, which I'm not apt to miss.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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