The Iceman (2012)
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
What should have been an insider’s view on the life and career of one of the most popular mob hit men of our time, turned out to be a very biased, and dangerously liberal abstract on Richard Kuklinski. For people who are interested in the real guy there are many public videos and articles available about his life. The real Kuklinski was a lot more evil than the one portrayed in the movie. His HBO interview will scare you in many ways because of his casual attitude towards the 100+ people he has killed, chopped up, poisoned and frozen to stay undetected.
What The Iceman movie shows us is a devout family man, whose means of income just happened to be killing. It does what many movies tends to do–while pissing off historians–and that is to write a version of the truth that is plagued with such inaccuracies that it becomes offensive. Michael Shannon is an extremely likable guy, as soon as he opens his mouth you want to know more about him. He killed the role in terms of becoming the version of Kuklinski he was asked to play, but I worried for the truth after feeling sympathy for him in the ending credits rather than anger, fear, and disgust. The same emotions I felt after hearing the real guy speak.
Before I get into the actual review I would ask that upon seeing this movie you check out a documentary on Kuklinski The Iceman, or some good reading on the internet. Here are some links:
Ray Liotta plays the part of gangster Roy DeMeo in such a way that I feel inclined to start it off about him. Many people only know the actor for his role as Henry Hill (another gangster) in the hit movie Goodfellas, but he is nothing like that in The Iceman. Liotta’s Demeo was portrayed in the way that I have always read gangsters to be. He was a vicious, cold-blooded, opportunist, whose friends even feared him due to the volatile nature in which he would lash out at anyone that crossed him. Liotta was believable, and an intimidating presence whenever he was onscreen. I really wished they had shown us more of him rather than the numerous family-time scenes with Kuklinski.
The direction was all over the place in terms of focus and makes me wonder at why certain decisions were made. David Schwimmer plays Josh Rosenthal who is a friend of DeMeo’s and someone that works for him. Outside of being DeMeo’s lacky and being central in a situation that affects Kuklinski, he really did not deserve the amount of camera time that was given to him. On the other hand Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans) who is Kuklinski’s partner and extended teacher in the killing arts is given no real character development and shows up and vanishes at the director’s convenience.
The Iceman played by Michael Shannon could be best described as stoic and unstable. I have no doubt that the actor did his homework in studying the real man’s mannerisms (down to his walk) and his history, but what we are given–and I can only blame this on the Director–are mere hints into who he truly is. Much time is spent on Kuklinski’s later life as a family man and his history is restricted to one tiny conversation with his imprisoned brother Joey, played by Stephen Dorff. Another hint at his history came by way of a flashback showing the abuse he was dealt by his father. Other than these two examples, the only thing we ever learn about Kuklinski is that he loves his family and can kill without conscience.
My Main Problem With The Iceman
While artistic license is a regular thing for movies detailing real people, it still could be dialed in more towards the true nature of the person you are portraying. Those of you who follow my reviews know that I felt very much the same way about the horribly biased portrayal of Frank Lucas in American Gangster, so I am sure that me disliking The Iceman will not surprise you.
I wished that we would have gotten some sort of face time with one of his victims to drive home the point that his targets were men with people who loved them (just like him) instead of mere “marks” that he took out to get paid. As a chronicler of history you should not negate these details and it is why I could at least appreciate the attempt to show the heroin victims in American Gangster.
Everything aside the acting was absolutely stellar in The Iceman, and the cinematography puts you right in the time period that is his rein of terror. Time changes were done a bit poorly, but the vehicles, the colors and the hairstyles were enough to suspend belief for a time. If you want to check out The Iceman it is available currently on Netflix.