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Fri May 24, 2013
Grade: B Director: Ariel Vromen
Screenplay: Vromen, Morgan Land , from the book, The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, by Anthony Bruno
Cast: Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Winona Ryder (Black Swan)
Rating: R Runtime: 105 min.
by John DeSando
“Cold as Ice” (Roy describes Richard)
No film title this year is as spot on as The Iceman, the partially true story of contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), who killed over 100 men (no women or children) with a cold demeanor like ice. Shannon plays him with a scary detachment, and there are many murders to witness in the film.
When James Franco plays a hood, a cameo part, then he may have wanted only to work with the accomplished Shannon. That Ray Liotta plays Roy Demeo, Richard’s mob boss, is no surprise as he always plays a crook, and always a bad one, except maybe over 20 years ago in Goodfellas. The major thematic tension, present as soon as Richard marries, is that even a killer may have strong love of fellow human beings, but usually only if they are family. His wife, Deborah (a fine Winona Ryder), and their 2 lovely daughters are clueless about his crime job, making the denouement all the more heartbreaking when he is arrested in 1986. New Jersey is depicted accurately from the fifties onward, as is their dress and hair styles.
Most importantly, Shannon has the right heavy accent and terse speech to make him sound like other film heavies but remain separate in his consistent characterization. Nothing happens randomly, chance is rarely an ingredient, and Richard eventually makes human mistakes, like his code about not killing women and children, leading to his end. This film has too many murders even though he committed enough for several films.
Rather we should have spent more time with Richard so we could begin to understand his hard heart that melts for his family. Iceman is a small film that will elude filmgoers but not Shannon lovers and Goodfellas devotees. If life is sometime fair, then Shannon will receive an Oscar nomination: He’s that good.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com