TIFF 2012 Film Review: The Iceman

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Fragoso on 15 Sep 2012

In the vein of something like Kill The Irishman, The Iceman is yet another cheap-trick conventional gangster film based on a true story with a bruting protagonist willing to murder anyone so long as the price is right. Lack of originality and insipid screenwriting will soon read as the autopsy of this actively tiresome genre.

Michael Shannon plays the Polish cold-blooded hired assassin, Richard Kuklinski. In the beginning he works for Roy Demeo (Ray Liota) and partner Josh Rosenthal (David Schwimmer), but as with any narrative framed around the rise and fall of a sadistic individual, the Polish murderer goes into business with anyone able to pay his high salary. When not driving around New York City or New Jersey destroying the lives of others, Kuklinski spends time with his gorgeous wife (Deborah, played by Winona Ryder, is under the impression Richard dubs Disney movies) and his two teenage daughters.

Spanning from the early ’50s to Kuklinski’s inevitable incarceration, The Iceman explores the broken down tale of a man who’s good at what he does: killing. His inspirations aren’t lucid, nor is his troubling past that brought him to this point. But what’s bothersome with the leading character is his constant contradictory rhetoric and actions. Time and time again he wholeheartedly pronounces that the only thing he cares about, the only thing he loves, is his family. And yet he spends majority of his life not only away from them, but perpetually putting them in danger. I’m not quite sure what sort of strange, maligned love he’s construed, but whatever works.

Shannon is the type of immensely gifted actor that has the ability to make any role engaging. Kuklinski is a terrifying presence, and director Ariel Vromen was fortunate to cast not only the expressionistic Shannon, but all the talent involved – from Ray Liota to Winona Ryder. The duality of Richard Leonard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, part malicious killer and part buoyant family man, is clearly understood by Shannon and Vromen. However, the same can’t  be said for the movie, which is vacant of any dichotomy between itself and the multitude of previous endeavors that hit the same notes with more verve and craft than this ever does.


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