Friday, May 24, 2013

The Iceman (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

When mafia boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) shuts down his porn dubbing business, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) loses his only job. But Roy decides to give Richard another chance with one test: Richard must murder a helpless homeless man in broad daylight. Richard uses Roy’s gun to prove himself, and shortly after the murder, Roy gives Richard a job as his personal hitman.

During his ruthless killing sprees, Kuklinski makes more than enough money to provide a comfortable life for his wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder) and his two daughters. But when Josh Rosenthal (David Schwimmer), one of Roy’s idiotic friends, double crosses two Cuban drug dealers by killing them, keeping the money, and stealing the cocaine, Roy orders Richard to lay low until the heat dies down. And Richard allowing a young girl, who witnessed one of his murders to go free (Kuklinski refuses to kill women and children) puts a strain and Richard’s business relationship with Roy. With pressure from Deborah, and a lack of money, Richard teams up with another hitman, who uses his job as an ice cream man for cover. Robert Pronge or “Mr. Freezy” (Chris Evans) puts Richard back in the game as free agent for different mafia families, going against Roy’s orders. Also, Mr. Freezy teaches Kuklinski the technique of freezing dead bodies to throw off the cops and detectives.

One of Mr. Freezy’s jobs involves murdering one of Roy’s trusted men at a night club, with plans to eventually kill Roy in the future. The lure of a big payday from mob boss Leo Marks (Robert Davi) convinces Richard to take the job, using a spray filled with cyanide to kill Roy’s associate by covering it up with a harmless sneeze. But Richard is spotted by an acquaintance at the club, and shortly after the hit, Richard is tied to the murder. Furious, Leo calls off the hit on Roy, and he refuses to pay Richard for the job, so Richard snaps, and kills Leo.

Richard receives a stern warning from Roy with Roy promising to go after Richard’s family if necessary, and Mr. Freezy urges Richard to lay low, but Richard kills him instead after he suspects Mr. Freezy gave away his home location to Roy and his enemies. Richard tries to do one last job to make enough money, and move his family away from the crossfire, but unbeknownst to Richard, the FBI is setting up a sting operation to put him behind bars for life.

Solid supporting cast all around with Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Robert Davi, and Chris Evans providing the most noteworthy performances. And James Franco has a cameo here as a sleazy and despicable  pornographer. Franco only has one scene, because Kuklinski takes him out after his first and only appearance.

But make no mistake about it, Michael Shannon is the star here. Shannon’s ruthlessness, his rage, and cold-hearted demeanor embodied the sadistic reputation of Richard Kuklinski. Although, Shannon could also showcase a more vulnerable and caring side, as a devoted husband and loving father.  His performance is Oscar worthy, and he really carries this film on his back most of the time.

All in all, The Iceman is a bloody and brutal docudrama/crime drama. It feels too ordinary at times, and considering the source material, you would expect something more extraordinary or masterful. And I can guarantee you, even if you’re not familiar with Richard Kuklinski, you’ll be able to see the “botched one last job before I get out of the life, followed by a dramatic arrest from a large group of cops, and court appearance before I receive a life sentence” ending coming from a mile away. Plus, Ariel Vromen’s bland style of directing didn’t help anything. Still, with most of (if not all of) the credit going to Michael Shannon, The Iceman is a very good movie. Not great, but very good.

Final Rating: 8/10

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