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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Movie Review - The Iceman

The Iceman (2013)
Starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, and David Schwimmer
Directed by Ariel Vromen
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I found myself kept at a distance from the plot and characters in director Ariel Vromen's film The Iceman based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski (played here by Michael Shannon), a regular joe (well, actually a porn editor with an anger issue who perhaps killed a man or two who made him angry) who gets mixed up with mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) and ends up becoming one of Demeo's most trusted and talented hitmen, murdering over one hundred targets across a thirty year span.

Shannon certainly tries to bring dimensionality to Richard, but the script oftentimes feels like it's trying to hard to show us that he's a family guy (married with two kids, nice house in the 'burbs, etc) who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd.  Ultimately, this urge to kill seemingly was in Richard's blood from an early age -- we see key plot points before Kuklinski meets Demeo that appear to prove this -- yet the film still attempts to show him as a guy with heart.  Sure, he may love his wife (played by Winona Ryder) and his two daughters, but the film doesn't ever allow us to empathize with him perhaps because Shannon never once plays Richard as any modicum of "warmth" or "tenderness."  Frankly, we don't feel too bad for his family as the harsh Kuklinski receives his inevitable comeuppance (this is a mobster movie and all mobster flicks feature this ending as protocol it seems, so that's not really a spoiler), yet the screenwriters keep trying unsuccessfully to get us to relate to him.

Perhaps the even bigger issue is the fact that as Richard grows into one of the most successful mob hitmen of all time, his hits blend into one another and never carry any weight or meaning.  While there certainly are underlining plot lines about Demeo believing that some on his crew are betraying him, all of that is brushed under the rug incredibly quickly to allow Shannon to angrily hold a gun to someone's head or slit their throat.  Without any meaning behind the assassinations, we lose any sense of plot.  There's probably an interesting story behind Richard Kuklinski's success in the mob -- The Iceman doesn't provide that.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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