Friday, May 3, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Iceman

The Iceman
Directed by Ariel Vromen
Released May 3, 2013

Michael Shannon makes quite an impression. In addition to his hulking presence that leads him to tower over most other people, he has a demeanor that does not invite conversation and makes him extremely intimidating. That aura is part of what qualifies Shannon as the perfect person to portray real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski, whose simple life as a pornography editor and father of two takes a turn for the calculating and deadly after he is hired by the mob. Shannon is utterly captivating in the lead role, and his story is a formidable one as well.

In the film’s first scene, a smiling Richard is seen talking to the woman who will soon become his wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder) on a first date, and, when asked what he does, he replies, “I dub Disney movies.” That initial lie is only the first of a series of categorical untruths, as Richard becomes more ingrained in the criminal world as he is forced to kill for mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) and does so commendably without any argument. It’s only a matter of time before things begin to unravel, yet it’s astonishing to watch Richard at his best, killing without emotion and helping his family become more and more comfortable thanks to the money he is earning.

“The Iceman” is best described as a character drama, since it focuses so intensely on Richard and the two lives he lives. The violence is all incidental, and it’s the stoic way that he deals with his jobs that makes him a rich and compelling character. Shannon has already turned in two unforgettable performances, in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter,” and this is yet another affirmation of his talent. While Ryder and Liotta are merely necessary and satisfactory supporting players, other actors stand out in almost unrecognizable roles, including David Schwimmer of “Friends” fame as Rosenthal, one of Roy’s deputies, and a charismatic Chris Evans, whose fellow contract killer uses an ice cream truck as both a cover business and a way to store dead bodies.

Richard’s story takes place in the 1970s and 1980s, and the film looks the part, utilizing appropriate backgrounds and costumes to best represent the era. The story slows down at points to isolate an important moment or interaction in Richard’s life and then speeds up to feature a montage of kills, smoothly transitioning through Richard’s transformation from small-town porn editor to one of the most revered hitmen in town. This is not a happy story, but, as showcased here, it is an undeniably appealing one. Fluctuating between genuine joy, eerie calm, and full-on intensity, “The Iceman” is a gripping cinematic journey not to be missed.


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