The Iceman (2013) – Review

Hitman or Shitman?

Director: Ariel Vromen
Stars: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans
Running time: 105 minutes

I love hitmen. I don’t mean real life ones, I’m talking about movie ones. No offence of course to real life assassins, I appreciate you’re doing a tough job in a rough economy so no hard feelings, ok? What makes movie killers like this interesting is the questions of how and why someone would get into this line of work. The Iceman attempts to answer these questions but fails to shed a lot of light on the subject at hand. And I promise this review will contain no ice related puns.

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I really need to have a word with Gary in the photo department

The Iceman tells the true story of Richard Kuklinski played by the excellent Michael Shannon, a loving family man who just happened to be a contract killer for the mob with a purported one hundred career kills. Set across a period of twenty years between 1965 and 1985 we see how young Richie gets involved and how his working life came to an end.

It’s obvious from the start that the makers of the film have been inspired by movies like Goodfellas or Scarface. This is a another period piece about the illegal pursuit of the American dream and the traps that come with it. But where those classic flicks succeed with style and pathos, The Iceman just ambles along telling what should be a fascinating tale in an incredibly uninspired way.

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“Gary, we need to talk about the photos you’ve been choosing”

Things start off well with Kuklinski a worker in a porn theatre, going on his first date with his future wife Deborah (Winona ‘I’d like to’ Ryder). Here we see a quiet, reserved, shy man who obviously is already in love with his date. This is where the best element of the movie becomes apparent and that is in the performance of Michael Shannon as Kuklinski. Where other actors would have created a boring character from the limited dialogue Kuklinksi has, Shannon manages to make him enigmatic and interesting. He barely moves any of the features on his big, strange head but what’s going on in there is always apparent.

It’s the performance that keeps you watching as the story falls into a familiar pattern of murders and mafia infighting. There isn’t much to care about in terms of supporting characters with Ray Liotta playing his usual mob guy and Chris Evans as an ice cream truck driving hitman named Freezy. You never become invested in this part of the plot and how it either does or doesn’t affect Kuklinski. The most interesting thread is that of his family life but this is pushed to the background in favour of the shooting and shouting.

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“Gary, you’re fired”

What could have been an excellent study of the mind of someone who has obvious psychological issues and the ideal job for someone like him becomes a standard gangster flick with New Jersey mobsters plotting against each other. Shannon’s performance and the moments of inventive violence save it from being a dud meaning it’s worth watching but you should lower your expectations accordingly. The Iceman is a lot like the man it portrays – quiet, mysterious, and ultimately hard to warm to. Is that an ice pun? Dammit, so close!

6/10

Have you seen The Iceman? Are you a hitman? Who’s your favourite iceman?

46 comments

  1. A law should be put in to place: no films featuring hitmen should ever be made again. Why?… well if you’re being honest with yourself Sly’s 1996 film ‘Assassins’ is pretty much perfect in every way. Sly wears a barbour jacket and wellies and Banderes shout Robbbbbbbeeeerrrt Raaaaaath a lot. Seriously a lot.

    God im cool.

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  2. My favorite Ice Man was the lady who use to bring ice to the restaurant when the ice machine broke. it was a very cold job and she always delivered.

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  3. Very good review.

    And I agree. Made many of the same points in my own review. Shannon is awesome, but the movie never finds a way to make us care.

    For something with similar objectives but better execution check out Blue Caprice, if you haven’t yet.

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  4. Bummer it’s not as good as Shannon’s performance, well based on what I read he’s VERY good here. I still might rent it just for him and Chris Evans, but the subject matter doesn’t really entice me.

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  5. Good review Mikey. Shannon is what really makes this film tick with intensity. And although the movie as a whole isn’t so bad, it’s just nowhere near as complex as it should be. It’s just, yet again, another story about a hit-man struggling with what it is that he does and how he handles his family. That’s all there is to it, and it’s nothing special really.

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  6. Haha! Nice little post Mikey. Made me laugh with those pics and Winona “I’d like to” Ryder. Lol. As for the film, I found it to be okay. Could’ve been a lot better. I gave it 3 stars so I suppose that equates to your 6.

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  7. Know exactly what you mean. Was kind of expecting more action than I got – even though he did kill a hobo. Chris Evans was probably my favourite part about this.

    Sadly, I thought the wikipedia entry about the real guy was more interesting than this film. Sozzles Shannon.

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  8. Good review pal, I saw this a long time back, but I remember liking it okay, But maybe that’s just it. I should have downright loved it if the story was more compelling (or as compelling as Michael Shannon’s performance was riveting), so I guess I have to side with you. . . uhhhgain. 😉

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