The classic rise-and-fall gangster narrative paired with the uniquely secretive serial killer aspect in the storyline makes for an original crime film in The Iceman. It is the type of film which takes us down many familiar paths, so it is the individual blend of the expected which makes up a majority of the entertainment. Even when we can guess where the storyline is heading, this is a film rich enough in production design and compelling acting to make up for some of the safer filmmaking decisions and the limitations of being tethered to a true story.
Based on the notorious killing of a mob-employed contract killer known for freezing bodies to dispose of at a later date, The Iceman is a film carried by its lead actor, Michael Shannon.
Shannon has shown us the
eerie side of this role in previous performances, but adds an extra element of
machismo as Richard Kuklinski. Some of the actual facts behind this case are
debatable, with some of the 100-some murders he claimed to have performed
actually occurring when he was already behind bars. This film isn’t dedicated
to precise facts, but instead gives us the portrait of a man disturbed and
proud enough to embellish his kill-count.
There is a typical rise-and-fall storyline at play here, but it becomes more untraditional with the understanding that monetary gain seems to mean less to Kuklinski than fear and respect. The
high point in his rise in
success is due to a partnership he makes with a freelance contractor riding
around in an ice cream truck, played by Chris Evans. The weaker aspects of the
story come with the family life aspects of Kuklinski.
Where this film varies from most gangster tales is the fact that Kuklinski’s family was oblivious to his actual profession, believing him to be nothing more than an average American business man. Through his marriage with his wife (Winona Ryder) and the raising of his children, somehow Kuklinski is able to hide his true nature as a ruthless killer. As compelling as this idea is, onscreen it does not play out nearly as well. The film has more to gain from the relationship Kuklinski has with his victims than it does his family life. Ray Liotta’s brief appearance adds much-needed heft to the criminal underworld aspect of the film, which would be otherwise off-balanced by focus on familial secrets.
The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Disc Features: 5/10
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