MICHAEL SHANNON WINONA RYDER RAY LIOTTA CHRIS EVANS DAVID SCHWIMMER JAMES FRANCO STEPHEN DORFF
This dark and bitter new film is about one thing: the talent of Oscar nominee Michael Shannon. At this point in his career, Shannon (Take Shelter, Mud) is one of the most in-demand character actors when you want someone emotionally cold. The Iceman, based on the shocking true story of a hit man in the 1960-80’s who killed over 100 people and led a double life as a family man, couldn’t be a more perfect fit for Shannon, who effortlessly slides in and out of these brilliant and unforgettable characters, always leaving the audience with an eerie feeling of getting to know someone he has portrayed.
Richard Kuklinksi (Shannon) started in the editing room of the porno business but was recruited by New York crime boss Roy Demeo (Liotta) to carry out hits on those who either got in his way or didn’t pay up. Richie was able to provide for his wife (Ryder) and his two girls and be a successful, proud and loving father. His duel identities worked perfectly until things got ugly with the criminals and the media took notice of the many dead bodies which were frozen and then disposed of piece by piece. The Iceman, they labeled him, a cold personality but a protective father and husband above everything else.
The unique quality about this film compared to other recent hitman flicks like Killing Them Softly is that this one is rooted in facts and true accounts. The fascinating element to The Iceman is the portrayal by Shannon, who can also be seen as a villain in the upcoming Man of Steel. Although villain isn’t the right word for Kuklinski, who viewed the murders as nothing more than his job. 33-year-old Israli born director Ariel Vromen taps into the same fine line we saw in The Talented Mr. Ripley, where we as the audience almost want him to get away with it.
The cast is impressive with actors like James Franco in small roles because they just wanted to be a part of this project. Chris Evans is unusually good here, as is Ryder as the wife who doesn’t ask questions. Vromen doesn’t apply any really impressive camera techniques regarding the violent scenes or impress the audience with cinematic skills and this is likely due to his background in documentary and sports work. The Iceman is pretty straightforward in its artistic quality. The story is fascinating and that, along with Shannon, is what’s worth watching here.
Final Thought – Another stunning performance from Michael Shannon.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This is a chilling account of someone who successfully lives a double life for many years. A cold-blooded contract killer for crime families, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) is passionately devoted to his own family. Interestingly, he has standards, and refuses to kill a young woman near the age of one of his daughters, which is the beginning of the end for him because it is defiant of his boss Roy (Ray Liotta). Shannon performs the role of the killer at his usual superior level. His portrayal evokes a sharp-edged image of a man loaded with contradictions. There is one brief snapshot of him as a child that provides some explanation as to how he gets to where he is, along with a few comments from his imprisoned brother. Ariel Vromen, the co-writer/director, is clever in inserting these brief scenes as a succinct picture of his background to make sense of his character. In fact, the overall direction in Vromen’s very competent hands is impressive, since he seems to be in the early stage of his directing career.
The movie flows well, starting when Richard is just getting acquainted with his wife Deborah (Wynona Ryder), having a family, achieving success in his “business”, but making some critical errors, and then ending with his arrest and conviction. The opening and closing shots of the film, which are close-ups of his face as he is being interviewed following his conviction, are striking. They look like a Chuck Close portrait, and what he says captures both sides of his personality.
The other actors, such as Wynona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, and David Schwimmer provide excellent back-up. Ryder is great as a loving, supportive wife who is not too curious about what her husband does, and Liotta’s steely blue eyes and deportment are as threatening as always. Evans and Schwimmer come across well as thugs, even though they’re used to playing the good guys.
The actual Richard Kuklinski did grow up in a brutal family. His father abused one child to his death, and the mother beat the children with broomsticks on the one hand, and on the other, made sure they had strict Catholic training. He began torturing animals as a child, and claimed to have killed his first victim at age 13. The movie version of Richard—as stark as it is—is probably a glossier picture than his life actually was.
I found the film, based on Anthony Bruno’s book, The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, to be very well done, instructive, and even entertaining at times. Grade: A