The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Iceman | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Iceman

True story of America's most prolific hitman.

Directed by: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, James Franco, Stephen Dorff

Richard Kuklinski (Shannon) takes a job wiping out the enemies of mob boss Roy Demeo (Liotta), to provide for his wife (Ryder) and two young daughters. He becomes prolific, (Kuklinski's victims are thought to number well over a hundred), seemingly addicted to killing. When Demeo orders him to take a break, Kuklinski becomes increasingly agitated. A chance encounter with a fellow hitman, Mr Freezy (Evans), leads the two to form a partnership, but Kuklinski begins to grow more and more paranoid.
There were two approaches Vromen could have taken with his true life tale of America's most notorious Mafia hitman - film it as a gangster movie or a serial killer flick. He chooses the former, and digs himself into a hole as a result. The gangster movie, with its rise-and-fall structure, relies on a protagonist the audience can envy, if not empathize with. (Think of the charismatic monsters essayed by Cagney and Pacino). Nobody in their right mind would envy Kuklinski's life. It's never even made clear just how much money he's being paid for his handywork. He's certainly not someone we can empathize with. Once we've witnessed him cold-bloodedly murder a homeless man at the movie's start, it's impossible for us to get on his side.
Shannon does a great job with a poorly fleshed out character but he's battling against a badly written script. We learn nothing about this character. Save for an encounter with a pornographer (Franco), in which he questions the existence of God, we don't see him interact with his victims; the killings are relegated to a few quick montages. As his wife, Ryder puts in a good shift but, again, the character is poorly developed, another stereotypical "wife who knew nothing of her husband's work". In the support roles, there's a lot of casting against type. Evans and Schwimmer are unintentionally amusing at times, (more the writer's fault than theirs), all "Joysey" accents and comedy mustaches.
From a dramatic point of view, the film's biggest problem is the lack of an antagonist. We're denied seeing the police investigation into his killings which means the film is devoid of suspense. Think of a 'Columbo' episode. Now think of that episode without Columbo. That's 'The Iceman'.

Eric Hillis