Sundance Review: The Convincer
The Convincer wants to be a quirky indie comedy, but it’s so unlikeable that even the clever parts don’t work. I guess when multiple indie filmmakers decide to do comedies about insurance salesmen, they can’t all be Cedar Rapids.
Mickey (Greg Kinnear) spends a long time narrating the philosophy of a salesman. There’s nothing new, just another sleazy, smarmy fast-talker. He spends his son’s college money on a new car, because he’s so cocky he’ll pay it back before the kid’s 18. He promotes his secretary but won’t give her a raise until his salary review in a month. What a douche. He actually tells his wife “Things are going to be different this time.” Really?
The big score for a desperate Mickey is when he finds out his new client Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin) has a valuable antique violin. First he uses it to try to increase Gorvy’s policy, but then he decides to just steal it. It’s not a cool scam. Cool scams are when you play people’s own hubris against them. Just taking advantage of innocents is gross.
Now you’ll want to feel bad for Gorvy but he’s frustratingly annoying too. He wants to pay his premium with a bag of change. Oh, isn’t that so quaint? He’s so scattered and irresponsible, you can’t even count on him to go where he tells you he’s going. He’ll end up somewhere else.
It really seems like this scam is so much work, it would be easier for Mickey to just work hard and make honest money. Mickey tries to negotiate a sale of the violin, then tries to switch the violin with a fake. Do you really want to watch a movie about a big violin score?
The thing is, all this isn’t even what the movie is about. It quickly turns into A Simple Plan knockoff, in the snow to boot. A crazy alarm installer, Randy (Billy Crudup), gets involved and there’s a murder. They have to dispose of the body, Mickey’s accounts get frozen. At least there’s some well deserved consequence for Mickey, but it’s no contribution to the botched crime genre. Is the point that crime doesn’t pay? That’s it?
It’s way too long for such an unlikeable movie. They definitely could have cut a lot of the opening preamble about how much Mickey enjoys being a liar. It’s all leading up to something but the ride is not fun.