The Iceman Review

Posted: December 19, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

THE-ICEMAN-PosterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

You’d think a gangster film based on a true story starring Michael Shannon as a brutal mob hitman and featuring actors like Chris Evans and James Franco in supporting roles would be a big deal. And yet, The Iceman sort of came and went without leaving much of an impact. Most audiences didn’t seem to care and the few critics who did see it seemed to be indifferent towards it. Still, the thought of Michael Shannon as a contract killer was too enticing for me to pass up.

The film opens in the 1960s where we see Richie Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) on a date with Deborah (Winona Ryder). Richie is soft spoken and simple, but determined and sincere. He tells Deborah that he makes his living dubbing Disney films. In truth, he ships pornos for the mob. After an altercation with mob boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta), Richie ends up working as a hitman for DeMeo. Over the course of his decade spanning career, Richie’s family never knew the truth until the end.

Given the synopsis, The Iceman reads like a crime epic. While I have no doubt that was director Ariel Vromen’s intent, the film doesn’t really play out like that. Instead the film jumps through time so quickly that the characters lack proper development and the events lack gravity. Take the relationship between Richie and Deborah. When we first see them, they’re on their first date. The next time, they’re married and have an infant daughter. Next time, that daughter has grown to a young teen and they have another daughter just a few years younger. It’s those kinds of massive leaps that keep the viewer distant from the material and the film’s brisk hour and a half runtime certainly doesn’t help. If I had to guess, I’d say the problem comes from Ariel Vromen’s inexperience. Crime epics are hard to pull off, especially after so many great ones, and Vromen just isn’t on that level. Because of this, the film feels more like a sequence of events than an actual story.

Thankfully the events portrayed are fairly interesting. Richie Kuklinski’s career of murder is an engaging tale and the fact that it’s all (supposedly) true adds to it as well. While the pieces never really gel together, as individual pieces they work well. The filmmaking on display is also pretty competent. The art direction, costumes, and style effectively evoke the 70s well enough and the cinematography is professional. There’s nothing exceptional or stylish, but it’s all effective enough.

The film also benefits from a cool cast. Michael Shannon is good as the simultaneously emotional yet distant Richie Kuklinski. It isn’t the epic performance that I pictured when I thought of Michael Shannon as a gangster, but he does very well all the same. The supporting cast has got some contemporary actors like James Franco and Chris Evans (the latter in a particularly fun role), but makes more use of lesser known actors who used to be bigger. This includes Ray Liotta (of course), Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, and Stephen Dorff. All give interesting performances and it was fun seeing a fairly unconventional cast playing a lot of these roles.

Overall, there’s enough about The Iceman for me to give it a light recommendation. There’s nothing really exceptional about the film, but there’s enough solid elements to make it an enjoyable watch, especially if you’re into gangster films as I am. It’s probably for the best this was out of theaters so quickly because there really is no reason to rush out and see this on the big screen. But as a discovery on tv or netflix, The Iceman works well enough.

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. A pretty conventional tale, told in a conventional way. However, Shannon’s performance rises above all else and makes this more of a thought-provoking character-study of a very troubled individual.

  2. ianthecool says:

    Your first sentence doesn’t make sense.

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