Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Iceman - review

Directed by: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer
Written by: Ariel Vromen, Morgan Land

Rating: 6/10

Richard Kuklinski, AKA "The Iceman", was a real life hitman for the Mob.

He killed over a 100 people and his brutality is replicated by a strong outing from Michael Shannon. Shannon's Kuklinski is at the peak a man of frightening intensity and sadism; at the worst, a flat out character lacking depth. His most famous and sadistic murders, especially under tuition from a second killer where he develops his moniker, are recreated in gritty detail. The twisted part of the tale? Kuklinski was a passionate family man. Hollywood has had a tendency to create splashy thrillers about glamorous assassins - it's a breath of fresh air to see such a portrayal.

The opening credits feature Kuklinski in prison, so the story has a sense of inevitability about it; this aids the creation of a suffocated atmosphere in his life.
The story sets out with Kuklinski working in a film laboratory, dubbing and finishing prints. He ends up working for a smaller crime family in the Mob, whose leader, Roy (Ray Liotta) is unnerving and violently rash to a tee. David Schwimmer joins as an incompetent mobster whose efforts only worsen the situation. As the tension ratchets up, the amount of bodies dropping increases. Kuklinski becomes a varied killer, killing with almost anything that comes to hand. He's dangerous and lethal, and when he's forced to take a break, he explodes at his family. Despite a set of principles and rules that he's developed, he ends up teaming up with "Mr Softy/Mr Freezy" (Chris Evans), modelled after real life killer/mentor Robert Prongay/Pronge, who helps him develop new ways to dispose of the bodies. It's amazing that his wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder) and his two daughters, are completely oblivious to the man who returns home to them every night. Kuklinski's own tale echoes that of another reptilian killer, BTK - Dennis Rader - whose activities also went similarly undetected for a long time.

Vromen directed this, it appears, almost with a tribute in mind. There are several classic and noticeable tones that line up with giants of the genre and if you've seen a fair few Mob related films, this won't feel at all new to you. The story's main drama would always come from the conflict between two wildly different sides to Kuklinski's personality and story, and while there is sufficient tension and action, it does leave you wishing you saw more. How, and in fact why, Kuklinski was able to keep two such succinctly different areas separated for as long as he did is never really explored.

Similarly, his past and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, as well as the killing/raping of his brother is only briefly mentioned, as if to give the viewer some brief context.

It's this that makes the protagonist hard to find interesting at times; the action offers brief respite in between attempts to glance over large chunks of Kuklinski's life. It's a lack of depth in the exploration that, even in a soundly created atmosphere, just falls at the big hurdles. Initially, you consider whether it's the first movie that will make you sympathise with a violent killer; by the end, you'll be wondering just how many minutes of the run time are left and whether or not you should eat when you get home.

What the Mr Thought: 
You'll never look at an icecream truck or a deep freezer in the same way again. The film leaves you unsettled and uneasy, but wanting more. The pace became, part way, two steps back and one step forward, and repeated ad naseum for awhile. The cinematography and the score were pleasing but nothing noteworthy; it's a run of the mill film for typical Hollywood gangster typecasts like Ray Liotta. It's certainly gritty, and Liotta and Shannon put in commendable performances, but a lack of character exploration, generic mobster movie traits and an uninteresting devolvement in the script keep it from being great.

What The Misses Though:
This film was intense. The sort of film that you have to pay a lot of attention to, but it was very much worth it! It was chilling (as the name suggests) and the only part I couldn't take seriously was our beloved David Schwimmer! You'll see what I mean if you watch the film. However this doesn't effect the film as a whole, which is well worth a watch.

But you didn't hear that from us,

The Mr and the Misses.

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