The Iceman (***)
Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon, Wino Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer
(Belfast Film Festival Screening QFT 15/04/2013)
MICHAEL Shannon gives an icy cool performance in Israeli director Ariel Vromen’s gritty crime thriller, The Iceman. The feature tells the true story of Richard Kulinski, a notorious contract killer who carried out over 100 assassinations, all at the same time while seemingly living the day-to-day life of a devoted family man.
Much like the likes of Killer Joe and Killing Them Softly, the features shows the seedy underbelly of American Society, unlike past gangster epics by directors like Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma, this film doesn’t try to glamorize the gangster lifestyle, but instead it focuses on the complexity of Kulinski’s duel-identity.
The film features an incredible ensemble cast, with the likes of Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder and James Franco featuring. Hollywood heart-throb Chris Evans is barely recognisable as fellow hit man Robert ‘freezy’ Pronge and viewers might also struggle to recognise David Schwimmer behind his moustache, ponytail and track suit.
But Shannon holds the film firmly together with a superb performance in the film’s central role, wading through the feature with an unsettling level of coolness. His character has an almost sociopathic level of disengagement from what’s going on around him as he tries to balance his double-life. He carries out each execution with relative ease, chillingly in one scene telling a victim to pray to God to stop him.
But it’s such a shame that the film told in such an uninspired way, while there’s nothing inherently bad about the feature it’s just feels like a run of the mill genre piece. Given the complexity of Kulinski’s character, there was the potential for an interesting insight into his psyche and not a feature that feels like more of homage to classic gangster movies like Goodfellas and The Godfather.
Secondly and probably more importantly I never really believed Kulinski’s duel lifestyle, when one of the central aspects of the feature is his complex double-life, it’s such a shame then that it’s handled so poorly. There simply isn’t enough screen chemistry between Shannon and Ryder for their relationship to be believed and at times the family aspects of the film, feel more like a narrative hindrance. Shannon’s portrayal of the character is believable as the cold-hearted assassin but he never convinced as the loving husband and father.
Despite these grievances The Iceman is still an intriguing little feature, that has gone down a storm on the festival circuit and a theatrical release will undoubtedly follow. While I might not have enjoyed the film as much as I had hoped, it has wet my appetite for Shannon’s performance as General Zod in the forthcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel.