25th Sep2013

‘The Iceman’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, Ray Liotta, Robert Davi, John Ventimiglia, James Franco, McKaley Miller, Stephen Dorff | Written by Ariel Vromen, Morgan Land | Directed by Ariel Vromen

Iceman

“He is such a cold blooded killer, they call him ‘The Iceman’”

Directed by Israeli’s Ariel Vromen (Danika, Rx) and starring Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice), The Iceman is a biopic based on the life and events surrounding Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer.

Set in the mid-sixties through to the eighties in New York and New Jersey, The Iceman begins with Kuklinski on a date with Deborah (Ryder) and you see that there’s a warmth to Kuklinski’s character and a sense of humour. It’s nice to see that the film, even in its opening moments, isn’t shying away from showing the grey areas of the story. Within five minutes of that scene ending, you see the darkness that exists in him as he finds issue with an antagonist in a bar room scene.

Michael Shannon is excellent in the role of Kuklinski, his ability to change between run-of-the-mill guy, clean-cut family man and cold killer is brilliant and his execution of dialogue and facial expression is fantastic. His lie to his wife about working for Disney when in fact he makes pornographic films is one of the first looks at what lurks behind his exterior. Keep your eyes out for a long hair and moustached (and bizarre looking, I might add) David Schwimmer as a lackey to Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) named Josh. A nice, and different, performance from the former “Friend”.

Winona Ryder’s (does this woman ever age?) portrayal as Kuklinski’s wife ‘Deb’ is well done and she brings a sense of normality to the story, a wife who loves her husband and her children but suffers because of Richard’s behaviour. The scenes with her and Kuklinski show the other side to The Iceman which is vital to the story and offers a vivid contrast between scenes. As the film progresses we see the refusal to be intimidated and ruthless coldness to Richard Kuklinski, one of the reasons he garnered the nickname ‘the iceman’ from the media, the other reason for the nickname came from Kuklinski’s choice of disguising the time of death of his victims by freezing their corpses in an industrial freezer.

Chris Evans, who plays Kuklinski’s “partner” ‘Mr Freezy’, is an interesting casting choice but one that works and, like with Schwimmer, it’s nice to see a different role for him.

The cast is deep and incredibly diverse, with names like Robert Davi, Stephen Dorff and James Franco among others adding some true talent to the mix. It’s with this cast, the excellent writing, the methodical direction and the brilliant performances that the film all effortlessly fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Dark, violent, disturbing and most importantly, true to many of the facts on which it is based. Some facts were left out, and many names changed, but that’s bound to happen.

There are scenes that allow us to see how cold and remorseless Richard Kuklinski was, but we also get to see other sides to him which is always a positive thing when it comes to these types of films. Visually, the film looks great and authentically shows the various time periods that appear in the movie. It doesn’t feel fake or cartoony, which in some cases it can. There have been plenty, some might say too many, movies about real-life killers from history. From Dahmer, Gein and Bundy to Gacy, Fish and Ramirez, but there are few that work, and even fewer than exceed expectations by a vast margin. The Iceman stands alongside great character studies of killers, such as Monster with Charlize Theron as superbly told and brilliantly performed pieces of work.

DVD extras include a behind the scenes featurette and interviews with the director and the cast. The Iceman is rated 15 and runs 106 minutes. It is released in the UK on September 30th, through Lionsgate UK.
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Check out our exclusive interview with The Iceman cast member Jay Giannone, right here.

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