Richard Kuklinski is one of the most notorious contract killers in American’s history. His lack of sympathy and penchant for freezing his victims gained him the handle of The Iceman, but his arrest revealed that his wife and children had always been blissfully unaware of his vocation. This is his story.
Fans of ace HBO drama, Boardwalk Empire, will be entirely aware and enthusiastic about the acting chops of Michael Shannon, who takes the role of the crazy FBI agent, Nelson Van Alden; and though he’s just started to become a recognisable presence on the silver screen most will be surprised to discover that he’s been turning up in films that we know for over two decades.
Go back and re-watch Groundhog Day, Tigerland, Vanilla Sky, 8 Mile or Bad Boys 2 (amongst many others), and you’ll have a pleasant surprise, though his roles in these films are fleeting to say the least. His big roles always came with independent cinema, but never as high quality as his collaborations with writer/director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter).
If there’s any justice in the world his forthcoming role as General Zod in the mega-bucks reboot of Superman should place him firmly with the cream of the industry, which makes it kind of fortunate that he’s squeezed in one last smaller film to really show off his subtlety.
The Iceman is a fantastic vehicle for Shannon to be placed front and centre in, the role of the merciless button man demanding exactly what the actors does best, quiet but readable introspection with the occasional bout of near insane rage. It’s a great turn that the film is entirely built around and worth seeing for this performance alone.
But if you need any more convincing then take into account that all the side roles are take up by uniformly great acting talent including Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evens, David Schwimmer, James Franco and Stephen Dorff, many of whom playing against type but all playing at their best.
As a crime biopic, or as a film in general, The Iceman can’t be said to be incredibly original, narratively or visually, so it doesn’t reach the heights set by such giants of the subgenre as Goodfellas or Chopper, but it’s certainly better than most in the marketplace, and for myriad reasons.
The period settings are excellently realised and wholly grounded in reality; it’s one of those films that looks like they actually went back in time to shoot, with little to no romanticising of the times. As with many of these films, the flitting from one year to many later, over the course of a scene, can sometimes feel a little sketchy, but The Iceman fairs better than most, owing to the fact that it finds a rhythm that makes these instances less jarring.
Director, Arel Vromen, has found a handle on this life story that makes it play properly as a narrative and brings it to a definitive conclusion at a respectable hour and forty-five minutes running time, rather than the epically long, anecdote by anecdote affairs that these things frequently become.
All that considered, The Iceman can be described as an engaging and good looking crime drama with acting calibre worthy of more notice than it will likely receive. Catch it whenever you can.
B- grade – for storytelling
B- grade – for visuals
A grade – for acting
Overall grade – B
The Iceman is currently on theatrical release in the UK, its US theatrical release was limited but it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from September 3rd.