The Iceman (R)

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Review byMatthew Turner8/06/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Engaging and enjoyable true-life thriller, enlivened by some impressive production design work, a strong script and superb performances from Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ariel Vromen, The Iceman is based on a true story and stars Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski, a member of the New Jersey mob's porn network who marries timid Deborah (Winona Ryder) in the early 1960s, after convincing her that his job is to dub Disney cartoons. When he comes to the attention of mob boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta), Kuklinski gets a job as a contract killer and proves remarkably adept at it, explaining away their sudden increase in wealth by telling Deborah that he's playing the stock market. However, when Kuklinski teams up with ice cream truck driving fellow hitman Mr Freezy (Chris Evans), their joint activities anger DeMeo and other members of the notorious Gambino family, which puts both their lives in danger.

The Good
Michael Shannon is terrific as Kuklinski, who displays an impressive ability to compartmentalise his life; there's even a suspicion (though the film never really explores this idea properly) that his work as a killer gives him an outlet for violent impulses that might otherwise be channelled elsewhere. Winona Ryder is equally good as his oblivious, blindly loving wife and their relationship is genuinely touching, particularly their early courtship scenes. (It's also a treat to see Ryder handed a decent role again; hopefully this trend will continue).

Vromen has also assembled a superb supporting cast: Ray Liotta puts his iconic Goodfellas-esque presence to good use as DeMeo, while Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable as Mr Freezy, whose cold-hearted unpredictability is genuinely chilling. There are also a number of enjoyable smaller turns from the likes of David Schwimmer (resplendent in a leather jacket and thick 70s moustache as DeMeo's henchman Josh Rosenthal), James Franco (as Marty Freeman) and Stephen Dorff (as Richard's brother, Joey).

The Great
The script does an excellent job of ensuring that we somehow empathise with Kuklinski, managing to humanise him in spite of his secret corpse-laden career. Similarly, Vromen maintains a strongly suspenseful atmosphere, ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels; in this way, he plays some interesting games with the conventions of true-life mob movies, since we know what's coming, we're just never sure when.

In addition, the film looks great throughout, successfully recreating the vibe of other 60s/70s-set mob thrillers, thanks to some eye-catching production design work (including a fabulous assortment of facial furniture), a superb score and Bobby Bukowski's suitably washed-out cinematography.

Worth seeing?
The Iceman is an engaging, well made true life crime drama, anchored by a typically terrific central performance from Michael Shannon. Recommended.

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The Iceman (R)
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Content updated: 19/10/2019 18:47

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