Review: The Iceman / Cert: 15 / Director: Ariel Vroman / Screenplay: Ariel Vroman, Morgan Land / Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, James Franco / Release Date: September 30th
Michael Shannon is fast becoming one of the great actors of the day. Though Starburst readers may know him as Man of Steel’s General Zod, he takes the lead in Ariel Vroman’s crime thriller The Iceman. As the film opens, Shannon’s character is on a date with his future wife (Ryder); he’s a little awkward but seems kind-hearted. We then see him in a bar playing pool. Another gent takes the opportunity to insult his girlfriend. This rude fella leaves the bar and starts up his car, when Shannon suddenly reappears – and emotionlessly cuts his throat. This is the true story of Richard Kuklinski, killer of over 100, hitman.
The story goes on to trace Kuklinski’s career, from his beginnings in the 1950s through his sideburn-infested '70s heyday and up to his '80s downfall, all shot with an overwhelmingly brown colour palette. It knows the gangster genre well; there are hits, betrayals, and even a mafia boss played by Ray Liotta. Also worth looking out for are Captain America himself Chris Evans, as a fellow hitman who moonlights as an ice cream man, and a great cameo from James Franco (who pulled out of the larger role later given to Evans).
While a lot of this is your typical gangster fare, there’s another side to Kuklinski – when not out murdering, he’s a family man. He takes his kids skating, goes for dinner with family friends, and reads an embarrassingly trite poem at his daughter’s birthday. He’s enormously protective of his family and becomes enraged when anyone thinks of threatening them. But when the boss terminates his employment, Kuklinski has no poor saps to take his anger out on and so becomes unstable, often losing his temper around his family and putting them in danger. It’s this dual life, and how the two lives seep into each other when everything starts to fall apart, that’s fascinating about the character.
What would be nice to see is more about what built this man – there’s a brief flashback to being beaten as a child, and one scene in which he visits his convict brother. These scenes promise more, but are sadly never expanded upon, and it feels like more could be done here to really get into the heart of the character.
Nevertheless, Michael Shannon is terrific – this is the perfect role for him. With an imposing physicality and an intense, brooding quality, Shannon inhabits the role of Kuklinski masterfully. He channels an intense anger, making the hitman someone who’d be scary to be around, yet he also makes us feel that he truly cares for his family.
The script may not be perfect, but The Iceman is made remarkable thanks to Shannon’s utterly gripping powerhouse performance. It’s well worth seeking out when The Iceman cometh to DVD on 30th September.
Extras: BTS Featurette / Interviews with Ariel Vroman, Producer Ehud Bleiberg, Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and Chris Evans