Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Movie Review: The Iceman (2013)

The Iceman (2013)
Director - Ariel Vromen
106 Min; R
Michael Shannon  - Richard Kuklinski
Winona Ryder - Deborah
Ray Liotta - Roy DeMeo
David Schwimmer - Rosenthal

If you want to know what evil looks like you need look no further than into the face of Richard Kuklinski, also known as 'The Iceman'.  Over the course of 30 some years throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, the Iceman killed at least 100 people and most likely more, all for the mob (The Gambino crime family), for money, and for the hell of it, using everything from guns to knives to strangulation and eventually, cyanide.  Known for his steely persona, Kuklinski would also often freeze his victims and later saw them up and dispose of them, so as to throw off traces of when the victims were killed.  What makes this story different than some basic serial killer or mad man, is that Kuklinski was just as much a good natured family man as an elite killer.  When he was finally arrested in a cyanide selling sting in 1986, Kuklinski's wife and 3 children had no idea that the man they loved was one of the most notorious murderers of all time.  After his arrest and until his death by suspicious activity in 2006 in Trenton State Penitentiary, Kuklinski never saw his family again.

In this film Kuklinski is played by Michael Shannon with a steely gaze and quiet intensity that is simply brilliant and chilling.  You can just imagine this man coming for you, and you having no chance, and nothing you said would matter. 

In a 1992 interview, Kuklinski recalled what he considered was his most sadistic murder.
"It was a man and he was begging, and pleading, and praying, I guess. And he was, 'Please, God, no,' all over the place. So I told him he could have a half an hour to pray to God and if God could come down and change the circumstances, He'd have that time. But God never showed up and he never changed the circumstances and that was that. It wasn't too nice. That's one thing, I shouldn't have done that one. I shouldn't have done it that way."
Michael Shannon has been around for a long time, but I didn't take much notice of him until his captivating role as a man who speaks the ugly truth to suburbanites in Revolutionary Road (2008).  In 2011 he gave one of the finest performances I have ever seen in one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Take Shelter, in which he portrays a man struggling with debilitating mental issues while the impending doom of some imaginary (or not) storm looms in the background.  In this film he continues his amazing ability to pull you into his character and lead you where he wants to take you.

Great supporting roles are all over this film, including Winona Ryder as the meek but loving and tender wife who never knew what evils her husband was up to.  Ray Liotta is, as always, perfectly equipped to play Kuklinski's over seeing mob man Roy DeMeo and he isn't just phoning anything in, he put some real effort into this role.  Perhaps a surprise turn by David Schwimmer as mob associate Rosenthal is the most interesting side story in the film.  Schwimmer is absolutely perfect as a just tough enough but certainly not going to make it all the way through the film kind of mobster.  I loved his character.

The filmmakers do an excellent job of placing us in the time periods as the years go on.  Scenery, costumes and wardrobes, and perfectly placed automobiles transport you from the 50s to the 80s and everywhere in between so that you never feel lost in time.  The look of the film has a nice graininess to it to complement the topic perfectly.

Michael Shannon has created an amazing portrayal of what this killer was like, but nothing compares to the iciness of the The Iceman as seen in his own words and gestures. The entire 2 hour special of interviews with the real Iceman, Kuklinski, is available on youtube and I strongly suggest you watch this before, or after, seeing this film:

4.5/5 if you tell me I have to give it a rating