Published on June 13th, 2013 | by Allan Brown1
The Iceman Review
Movie Review: The Iceman (2013)
Director: Ariel Vromen
Writers: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans
Plot: The true story of Richard Kuklinski , the notorious, cold blooded, Mafia hitman who juggled a life of contract killings while still being a devoted and loving family man.
Second time feature filmmaker Ariel Vromen brings the chilling true life story of Richard Kuklinski aka ‘The Iceman’ to the silver screen for the first time.
Kuklinski operated in New Jersey from the 1960’s until his arrest in 1986, where he claimed to have killed between 100 and 200 people. However, what makes Kuklinski’s story more interesting than others is the fact he managed to live a double life throughout his entire career. On one side he was a loving husband and devoted father who always put his family first. On the other, a notorious, cold blooded, calculated, remorseless murderer. When he was finally caught and arrested in 1986 his wife and family clearly shocked and distressed, contested they had no idea of the double life he was leading.
Director Ariel Vromen has given us is a simple A to B gangster movie that moves forward in a straight narrative without any grandiose objectives like that of The Godfather or Goodfellas. The style is real, gritty and free from any Hollywood gimmicks. Gone are any swooping camera shots and slow motion stylized death sequences. The killings are quick and brutal and the camera never shy’s away from the slaughter.
Richard Kuklinski’s life story while intriguing and often astonishing doesn’t offer much as a comprehensive narrative. The only interesting string in the films bow that presents any fresh curiosity to the well worn genre is the psych of its lead character, which is subtly played through an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.
There is no character arc, profound moment or even any real depth to the story, so what we end up with from a visual perspective is following our lead character from one contract killing to another. As Kuklinski is a cold, emotionless stone throughout, the audience can never really warm to him or even understand him.
This could and would normally prove a problem. Giving nothing for the audience to grasp onto or connect with is always a risky strategy especially in a film with such a simple narrative and although our protagonist has one redeemable quality, being a loving family man, it is only when Kuklinski’s world starts to collapse around him that we are shown little pieces of reason, logic and humanity as he becomes emotional, desperate, abusive, and even panicky. These are the film’s most defying and gratifying moments and Shannon plays them with a simmering intensity that is simply captivating.
If you are familiar with the documentaries on Richard Kuklinski; The Iceman Tapes and Confessions of a Mafia Hitman you will notice that Shannon has clearly done his homework. He plays Kuklinski to perfection and is eerily uncanny, right down to the mannerisms, voice and quirks of the real man.
With that said, the whole cast offer solid performances, from Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Deborah to Chris Evans who is unrecognisable in the supporting role as the ice cream van driver, who like Kuklinski leads a double life as a twisted contract killer and devoted father. Ray Liotta also shines as mafia boss Roy Demeo as does David Schwimmer in a surprising yet refreshing role as Josh Rosenthal. There is also a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from none other than James Franco.
Summary: A simple story, but never the less an intriguing one that is anchored by solid performances throughout, and none more so than by the ever impressive Michael Shannon.