Action Movie Fanatix Review: The Iceman

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Loving Husband.  Devoted Father.  Ruthless Killer.

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

Director: Ariel Vromen

2013  |  105 Minutes  |  Rated R

“I only feel alone around other people. Couldn’t be truer.” – Mr. Freezy

I had read ‘The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer’ by Philip Carlo and when I heard that a movie was being made based on the life of Richard Kuklinski, I was hopeful, to say the least.  So, did the movie do the story of Kuklinski’s life justice or did it opt for a Hollywoodization of the story I couldn’t get enough of?

The Iceman tells the story of Richard Kuklinski.  Loving Father.  Doting husband.  And mafia hitman responsible for the murders of over one hundred men.

I absolutely fell in love with the book that Philip Carlo wrote about the life of Richard Kuklinski.  Carlo had a bad habit of repeating himself at times but his writing felt honest.  While reading I felt like this very well could be the truth spoken from the lips of The Iceman himself.  I can’t recommend this book enough.

The movie version of Kuklinski’s story felt like a rushed lie.  An approximation of what actually happened.  It also sets forth a number of fallacies which paint an inaccurate picture of the man that Richard Kuklinski was.

First of all, it is made to look like life at home with him was hunky dory before he was hired by the mob when in fact he had been abusive toward Debra from before they were even married.  It’s almost an hour into the movie before “Richie” seemingly develops a temper.  The book describes a sense of constant tension within the Kuklinski household and while you definitely get the sense that there was love in the family, there was likely also a sense of hatred from everyone toward Richard and even the girls toward their mother for sticking around.

It is also made to look like his first kill is the bum that LaPron orders him to kill to prove his loyalty.  Kuklinski had actually killed many, many people for little to no reason prior to ever getting involved with the mob.

And to top all that off, it never even shows that Kuklinski had a son.  And I’m not talking about some estranged son that he never talked to or anything like that.  I’m talking a son by the same woman that he had his two daughters with.

The Iceman Michael Shannon

As usual, Michael Shannon puts forth a stellar performance.  He embodies the intensity that I had imagined Mr. Kuklinski having.  He even seems to have managed to mimic the mannerisms described in the book.  And his differing facial hair styles serve to show the passage of time from one portion of Kuklinski’s story to the next.  I do wish that they had done something to add some bulk to Shannon.  He’s far too skinny to match the imposing figure of Richard Kuklinski.

Richard Kuklinski

The rest of the cast is just as good as Shannon.

Winona Ryder is an actress I am usually annoyed with.  That slight annoyance actually played in her favor in the role of Debra Kuklinski, Richard’s wife.  She is the type of girl/woman who loves being obsessed over.

Chris Evans’ Mr. Freezy is about as big of a polar opposite from his Captain America as you could possibly find.  Mr. Freezy is a fellow hitman / serial killer who introduces Kuklinski to the use of cyanide.  He’s a creepy dude.

Ray Liotta, Robert Davi and David Schwimmer are mobsters.  It’s not much of a stretch to see Liotta or Davi in a role like this but it’s a little weird seeing Ross Geller with a greasy pony-tail and mustache.

I didn’t have a hard time following the story of The Iceman but, then again, I already knew it.  I’d be willing to bet that people who hadn’t already read Carlo’s book and watched the Iceman interviews would probably have a little tougher time keeping up with a story that is constantly jumping through time at a breakneck speed.

As a movie The Iceman is fine.  The problem is, it doesn’t do the best job of telling the whole story.  I’d recommend watching the movie first.  If you find this character interesting, pick up the book and find out more about this interesting yet scary man.  It’s too bad this book couldn’t have been made into an AMC mini-series or something.  I think they would have had the time and care to do this story right.  Now I know how all those “the book was so much better than the movie” people feel…

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