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The Iceman (2013)

Studio: Millennium Entertainment

Theatrical Release: May 3, 2013 (limited)

Blu Ray Release: September 3, 2013

Director: Ariel Vromen


Review by James Klein

Based on the true story of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, The Iceman is a film that on the surface looks like another Goodfellas rip-off; mostly set in the 1960's and 70's, small time hoods and gangsters, hell, even Ray Liotta is in the film. But The Iceman is really a character study about an unbalanced man who became a hired killer that believes in certain moralistic rules that he follows while on the job.

Michael Shannon plays Kuklinski, a quiet and soft spoken man who does voice over work for adult films. When he isn't trying to woo his girlfriend Deborah (Winona Ryder) he works with his best friend Dino in the adult film world unbeknownst to her. He even tells her he works on Disney films! When local mob boss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) pays the lab a visit for some money that is owed, Kuklinski's life changes as Roy asks him to kill a bum off the street as a test. Kuklinski does it at ease, showing no remorse and that is when Roy hires him to be his hit man. As the years go by, Kuklinski becomes one of the biggest notorious killers around, keeping his work life secret from Deborah and his two daughters. When Roy and Kuklinski have a falling out, he then starts to work independently and joins up with another contract killer, the psychopathic Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans who is almost unrecognizable in the role). When Roy gets word that Kuklinski is working on the side, all bets are off and the tables are turned as Kuklinski soon becomes the target.

The Iceman is an interesting and dark drama that is held together by the amazing Shannon. Shannon has always put in 110% in any role he has taken and this film is no exception. He reminds me of a young DeNiro as he puts his whole body and soul into every role he has ever done. It's almost scary at how this actor metamorphose into these characters he plays. From Hellcab to Bug to The Runaways to Man of Steel, Shannon has never phoned in a performance and watching him play the killer Kuklinski is enough to recommend The Iceman.

But it isn't just Shannon that makes this film so good. The entire cast is top notch and give some of their best performances to date. I have never been a huge Winona Ryder fan but I really thought she did a splendid job as Kuklinsk's supportive but naive wife Deborah. Chris Evans is also fantastic as the crazy and foul mouthed Mr. Freezy who drives around in an ice cream truck with dead corpses that he keeps in the freezer. Rounding out the excellent cast is David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, James Franco and Stephen Dorff. 

But there is one major drawback to The Iceman and that is the screenplay by Vromen and Morgan Land. It seems as if they wanted to fit everything that happened in Kuklinski's life into this movie. Clocking in at just 105 minutes, the film feels rushed as the movie quickly goes from the 1960's thru the 80's. While the pace is fast and the film never has a dull moment, the movie becomes a bit confusing and choppy as the movie proceeds into the third act. It's as if there were sequences that may have been taken out and so The Iceman's last 30 minutes is kind of a mess. By going off the rails near the end, The Iceman leaves the viewer a bit disappointed. Maybe if the film was directed by a more experienced director, the film could have been phenomenal.

The blu ray by Millennium looks and sounds great. No complaints at all in picture or sound. However, the limited special features is rather annoying. There is a choppy, poorly edited interview with Vromen and a very short making of featurette. That's all. How about a documentary on the real life Richard Kuklinski? An audio commentary by Shannon or Vromen? There had to have been deleted scenes, right?

It's a shame that The Iceman only got a very limited run in theaters as this violent drama would have been a nice change of pace to see in theaters these days.

[Rating: 3.5]


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