'The Iceman' has a thundering, scene stealing performance from Michael Shannon to propel it, for some that may be enough to warrant a movie ticket. For others who have already seen all the popular films about gangsters this movie would be a clichéd failure.
Music video director Ariel Vromen and his writer Morgan Land borrow every single mob boss film trope available to chart this film, a disappointing decision given the excellent production design and leading star. The film chronicles the real-life story of Richard Kuklinski, a Polish American mobster who murdered more than a hundred people in the ’70s and ’80s and was called The Iceman because he kept his victims’ body parts in a freezer.
The storyline instead of developing freely just follows the checklist of items that covers the rise and fall of a gangster, from Kuklinski’s first murder to the inevitable police crackdown. Vromen doesn’t invest much in exploring the character with the excuse of Shannon’s real life counterpart not having any expressions or motivation to cross over to the dark side. We’re shown brief glimpses of Kuklinski’s abusive childhood but that’s about it.
Majority of The Iceman slavishly hurtles from Kuklinski’s private life at home to his brutal mob life and the filmmakers hammer you with the ignominy of his family having to live a lie. Vromen at times resorts to hackneyed realms by showing Kuklinski struggling to come to terms with disappointing his daughters who think he’s a respectable man.
The film even has Ray Liotta as Kuklinski’s mob boss, a casting coup that makes you shake your head with the avalanche of predictability on screen. It’s all supposed to be chilling, like the film’s title, sadly it’s a lukewarm non-alcoholic drink.
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