Lined with a star-studded ensemble who illuminate this dark, grim, and violent crime-thriller. Ariel Vromen’s Scorsese-esque “The Iceman” is a taut, riveting biopic showcasing the two lives of hitman Richard Kuklinski as they begin to converge on one another. Although Vromen may not be able to create as well-written and intricate of a mafioso world to accompany the superlatively constructed and performed characters. “The Iceman” offers enough cold-bloodedness, criminality, and heart to stay a notch above in a crowded genre which earns it staying power that should burn for the foreseeable future. While things might get a little clustered at times and eventually descend into utter chaos. “The Iceman” remains quite the emotional, gritty wallop and is rooted by Vromen’s uncompromising vision and sublime performances. Which makes it one of the more memorable crime-sagas in recent memory.
During the 1960s, Richard Kuklinski (Shannon) is working as a porn technician. When his boss informs him that they will be closing the lab, Kuklinski is persuaded to change careers and become a contract killer. For a number of years, Richard gains a reputation as a cold-blooded professional, even though he raises and provides for his family, who remain kept in the dark as to what his actual profession is. When a hit goes wrong, Kuklinski is forced to lay-low, much to his distaste. Soon, he partners up with a fellow assassin as his two worlds begin to merge.
There’s no question that “The Iceman” is lifted to greater heights by the casts ability to invest and perform astoundingly. That being said, the extremely intriguing true story at its core and fascinating premise of a family man turned killer-for-hire are just too compelling to completely dismiss, even though neither is fully realized.
Based upon the novel entitled “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer” by Anthony Bruno. This adaptation might pick and chose what events and characteristics to utilize. It even goes as far as to dilute some of the violence and more disturbing actions carried out by Kuklinski himself, not to mention the complete absence of his earlier life and experiences. Which, one could argue, works against the overall effectiveness of the film. Nonetheless, Vromen definitely makes the story his own and provides his viewers with the gist of Kuklinski’s devilish endeavours and family life. Well, at least enough to satisfy those seeking out the truth and those wanting to experience the family man turned mafia assassin premise. Regardless, Vromen’s interpretation works decently alongside the immaculate performances, despite being more of a summary. I’d recommend reading the novel and watching some documentaries about the man himself if the subject truly interests you. If not, this adaption will surely suffice.
As for Vromen behind the camera, aside from a few shaky instances, he handles the illustriousness of his high-profile cast and the immensity of the story fairly well. He even occasionally shows signs of brilliance and innovation. Undeniably, he does a phenomenal job not only capturing his performers, but assisting and magnifying their blaze and radiance. Starring the likes of Michael Shannon, Ray Liotta, Wynona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco, and David Schwimmer. Keeping this much talent in check and reserving enough screen time for each to be effective is truly a skill-set most directors wish they held and one Vromen should continue to deploy assertively. It’s what sends this film over the top in my honest opinion.
Between “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “The Iceman,” it’s nice to know Ray Liotta’s still got it. And like his performances in these other two films, he is incredibly intimidating and ruthless throughout the film. David Schwimmer is terrific in a limited role and James Franco, also briefly used, holds the distinction of being in the most memorable scene of the film, in my opinion anyway. Chris Evans takes a break from playing America’s hero to tackle a much smaller role. Nonetheless, gives an even more integral, respectable performance and continues to be tragically under-appreciated. Yet, all in all, Michael Shannon and Wynona Ryder steal the show. Forming a bond that is believable and authentic, their chemistry is what drives the film. Ryder hasn’t been this good in a long while. Shannon is as malicious, stoic, and visceral as ever and once again proves why he is one of the best in the business.
Remarkably performed, enthralling, and decidedly violent. “The Iceman” is a delicious crime-thriller that’s sure to win the acclaim of any cinephile, although it should’ve been handled with a bit more care.