It’s Michael Shannon who’s the centerpiece of The Iceman. If only for his powerhouse portrayal, the movie is a must on the moviegoer’s agenda. Israeli writer-director Ariel Vromen depicts both the protective and destructive sides of Richie’s dual Jekyll-and-Hyde nature.
Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski in The Iceman. (Photo courtesy: Millennium Entertainment)
Direction: Ariel Vromen
Actors: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder
A based-on-fact gangster drama, The Iceman charts the life and crimes of a ‘Noir-York’ mob functionary. In a killing spree covering two decades from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, career criminal Richard ‘Richie’ Kuklinski murdered more than 100 people in cold blood.
Adapted from a true-crime novel as well as an HBO documentary on the former mafia hitman, the chiller is a tad gratuitous in its depiction of violence. Creating a fairly balanced portrait, Israeli writer-director Ariel Vromen depicts both the protective and destructive sides of Richie’s dual Jekyll-and-Hyde nature.
A devoted family man, the natural born killer (Shannon) managed to keep his parallel profession secret from his wife (Ryder, impressive in one of her rare recent screen appearances) and their two daughters. Whether using guns, knives, cyanide or his bare hands, the implacable assassin dispensed his victims with chilling efficiency.
Showing no signs of remorse even after his reign of terror has ended the serial killer doesn’t have a chance for moral redemption. After he’s laid off by his mobster boss (Ray Liotta, in gritty GoodFellas mode), Richie teams up with an ice-cream truck driver who’s also a freelance killer (Chris Evans, frightfully freaky as Mr Freezy).
Rather nonchalantly, he tries to justify his vocation by quizzing his new comrade-in-crime, “If somebody wants somebody dead, who am I to question it?”
However, the director doesn’t always succeed in avoiding the pitfalls of cliche. A brief flashback to his troubled childhood strives — unconvincingly — to provide an explanation for Richie’s descent into psycopathy.
While a traffic encounter late in the film keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat, chunks of the narrative are surprising devoid of urgency.
Vromen coaxes consummate performances from his A-list ensemble including James Franco in the cameo of a sleazy photographer.
But it’s Michael Shannon who’s the centerpiece of the film. If only for his powerhouse portrayal, The Iceman is a must on the moviegoer’s agenda.