Director: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, James Franco, Winona Ryder
In the United States, it’s not uncommon to see a gangster movie made every few years. They are usually in high demand and it’s kind of an oddity that people seem to continually watch them despite how deplorable the people in the film behave. For me, I watch them because of the psychology behind it, and the possibility of some good action scenes. Sure, it’s the usual, boring, masochistic ideas that wind up getting a lot of people killed, both in fiction and non-fiction, but whatever. There are always people to relate to in these movies. It seems many are just normal people caught up in very terrible situation; I guess it’s like witnessing a beautiful train wreck in motion. Unfortunately, ‘The Iceman’ is a stalled-out train going only a few miles an hour.
‘The Iceman’ is about the life and times of Richard Leonard Kuklinski, one of the USA’s most notorious contract killers and a suspected serial-killer. He claims to have killed upwards of 100 people, both contract killings and some just for fun. The thing that irks me about this movie the most is that they rarely, if at all, mention that he killed for sport; it tried to paint a hitman as a family man. This approach worked with ‘Leon: The Professional’, because Leon showed his humanity, mercy and love time and time again. Kuklinski showed nothing other than his desire to “work” as he called it in the movie. It also tried to make it look like he only had some mild anger issues and was the usual “strong silent type” left over from the 1950s. Sure, he was killing someone every other scene, but it isn’t like they weren’t bad people already, so there was no reason to object. During one particular murder, I literally caught myself saying, “Good. I’m glad he’s dead”. With such a lack of empathy for both the main character, and the overall information given in the movie, it’s difficult to give a damn about anyone caught up in all this. So, why did I even continue to watch?
The only thing that kinda saves the movie is the acting and the visuals. The shots are varied and capture intense scenes effectively. All around the acting was very good, although I don’t see this being much of a stretch for Michael Shannon. He mostly went around and looked angry half the time and barely had any dialogue. Winona Ryder’s role was instantly forgettable; it’s more than obvious that she was only interested in Shannon’s character for the money involved. I love Ryder’s acting 90% of the time, but this role was just terrible and it’s all due to the character she was playing. Chris Evans was alright as a sleazy contract killer, but it seemed like he needed to personalize the character more. Ray Liotta too, was back as the usual mob boss, but he fits the role well as we all know, so I don’t have any complaints about him. The only notable performances were David Schwimmer and James Franco, who both played roles they wouldn’t normally be cast for.
For me, ‘The Iceman’ was totally forgettable. None of the characters were notable or likeable, or even detestable in that special kind of way that makes us feel something at least; all were either severely flawed or excessively greedy. The subplots quickly came and went with little-to-no impact on the main character, or his family. This, despite the visuals, was probably one of the most boring mafia movies I’ve ever seen. Within the first few minutes I could tell that most or all of these people were terrible and not much changed throughout the course of the film. I’d skip this film if you are looking for a mobster movie. If you want a romanticised version of one of the USA’s most infamous contract killers, then sure watch this. But I did warn you.