Thursday, November 15, 2012
Kuklinski emerges as a compulsive murderer who has found a way to get paid for his compulsion. He never develops or grows all that more interesting as the years go by. Basically he's a nasty piece of work – and watchable and well-crafted though this film is, you have to wonder if Vromen's next one is going to be about the lavatorial needs of bears or the religious convictions of the pope.
We see Kuklinski first in the 60s, when – apparently a shy but basically decent working guy – he goes on a date with Deborah (Winona Ryder), the woman who is to be his wife and the mother of his two daughters. He keeps his psychotic streak of violence a secret from her, and also his livelihood: he works in the porn industry, delivering reels of film, and his unblinking tough-guy persona impresses local wiseguy Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who puts him on the payroll along with his unreliable consigliere, Josh (David Schwimmer). Soon, Richie is whacking people – in partnership with Robert Pronge (Chris Evans), a deeply creepy semi-freelance killer who schools Richie in the art of freezing bodies and disposing of them days after the hit, so the cops can't get a time of death.
Richard Kuklinski worked as a contract killer for the mob for four decades. He claimed to have murdered at least 100 people and possibly more. He died in 2006 while serving out five consecutive life sentences in prison. He was characterized as brutal and unflinching and an outwardly emotionless man. He had a grisly penchant for chopping up his victims and freezing them before disposal hence the underworld moniker “The Iceman.”
Michael Shannon plays the terrifying title character with amazing control. His performance is an exercise in precision, showing us a coldly exacting killer boiling just under the surface. His tightly-controlled performance works so well because we see the character under incredible stress. Kuklinski may have been a hardened killer, but he was also a family man. He had a wife and children who knew absolutely nothing about his mob work. To them he was a devoted husband and father, perhaps a bit distant at times, but unequivocally a good man. Balancing this double life proves ample fodder for a fascinating film.
The Iceman is a drama thriller film based on the life of notorious Mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski. It is due to be released in 2012 at the Venice Film Festival and stars Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans and Ray Liotta. It will also screen at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. It also screened at the Telluride Film Festival in 2012.