Director: Ariel Vromen
Screenplay: Morgan Land and Ariel Vromen
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Robert Davi and David Schwimmer
The Iceman had the huge advatage of being based on the true story of Richard kuklinski. What makes this story so interesting is that Kulinski is said to have killed over a hundred people (some say 200) and somehow kept his murderous nature from his family for many years. Does Ariel Vromen captialise on this intriguing narrative or does he squander this opportunity?
Sadly it is the latter. Now the only reason I watched this was to see Michael Shannon as a ruthless hitman, little did I know that this would end up being one of the film’s few strengths Ariel Vromen’s direction and script fail to inject any pace or tension into the film. Only in the final third do things begin to pick up as the danger mounts. The script uses one of the most generic lines that could ever be said in a hitman film: “I don’t do women or kids”. The script did not need to specify that he doesn’t kill women and children as five minutes before the line is said kuklinski spares a teenage girl. Additionally the script struggles conveying the passage of time as the only indication you are given is Michael Shannon’s changing facial hair.
Dissatisfied with the film’s account of the story I decided to watch the interview tapes of Richard Kuklinski. After watching these tapes my view that this film wasted it’s potential was only reinforced. First I want to say Kuklinski is one malevolent, terrifying man. At one point in the interview he said he lost a 50 dollar bet with his college concerning how long it would take for a man to drown in his own blood if you shot him directly in his adams apple. There are several moments in Kuklinski’s life that would have made for some great scenes. Kuklinski stated that at one point he gave his wife a knife, turned his back and said “You’ll never get this chance again”. This would have been a great addition to the film, a chance to create some much needed tension. The other thing thing that stood out for me after watching the interviews was the lack of attention the film gave to the substantial amount of beatings Kuklinski endured as a child from both his mother and father. Yet another missed opportunity to give us further insight in Kuklinski. Also for a film centered around a murderer we are only given a quick montage to show this and this montage fails to express just how brutal, cold and calculated the “Iceman” was.
The performances from every cast member save this film. Michael Shannon is excellent, he portrays Kuklinski with the menace and brutality the character needs. Shannon actually adopts a subdued approach which makes his random outbursts even more effective. Chris Evans was more than adequate as fellow hitman “Mr Freezy”, he is so recognisable that it took me a while to realise it was Chris Evans. Ray Liotta once again shows his skill as an intimidating mob boss.
This film could have been exciting, captivating, tense and engrossing but the words “could have” would ultimately be the film’s downfall. Finally it does not surprise this blogger that the film experienced an ‘icy’ reception.