The Iceman tells the true story of Richard “Ritchie” Kuklinski who, as a maffia assassin, has at least 100 lives on his conscience. Although, conscience… the man isn’t called “The Iceman” for nothing.
We go back in time and meet Kuklinski while he’s on his first date with Deborah Pellicotti, his future wife. Their life together starts with the lie that Kuklinski convinces her he works for Disney as a dubber for cartoons while in reality he works in a company that copies porn movies. That doesn’t make his feelings any less, though, she’s clearly the one for him and he’ll do anything for her. That he’s serious about this quickly becomes clear when little later someone ridicules him and wishes him good luck with her as she doesn’t want to have seks before marriage; the man doesn’t get to live a long life as Kuklinski waits until he enters his car, slits the man’s throat without any fuzz and then calmly disappears into the dark.
That he can keep his calm under all circumstances quickly gets noticed when Roy Demeo, a mob boss, visits the company Kuklinski works. Demeo halts the porn business but offers Kuklinski to come work for him. After an initial test that Richard passes easily he gets hired as exclusive assassin, a job that not only fits him like a glove but also provides enough money to lead a luxury life with Deborah and his two daughters who he tells he’s now working in the world of finance.
When internal mob politics make that Richard is temporarily out of a job he sees himself forced to secretly start working together with the independent contract killer Mr. Freezy, but not only does this violate his agreement with Demeo, it also makes it harder and harder to keep his secret life hidden from his family…
The Iceman is based on a true story, has next to a great lead actor also tons of well-known names in supportive roles, and details the story of a mob assassin. “Can’t go wrong!”, you think. Yes, it can.
Michael Shannon is perfectly cast as Kuklinski, a hired assassin who only has feelings for his family and for the rest doesn’t care about anything. He reminds us of an “evil” version of Nelson Van Alden from Boardwalk Empire and we wouldn’t be surprised if Shannon had been cast specifically for this reason. The acting from the rest of the cast may be a bit standard for this genre (especially Ray Liotta puts down his typical mob boss) but certainly can’t be called bad, and the problem with the movie is mostly that the makers don’t quite seem to know what they want to show and as such feed us fish nor flesh.
The astonishing part in the story of “The Iceman” is mainly that someone can keep at least 100 murders a secret to his family and that should provide enough material for a decent movie, but the makers clearly were worried that the larger audience wouldn’t be pleased with just that and decided to have the murders themselves as well as the mob connection be present more prominently. A big mistake as the end result now is that the story isn’t brought forth as a consistent movie where images flow over in each other. A good example of this is the visit of Richard to the prison where we suddenly find out he’s got a brother who brings up all kinds of information from the past that gives better insight into the person Richard truly is. As such not a problem, but this gets thrown at the viewer as a separate block without any framing and that isn’t the only time this happens. Instead of a story we seem to be looking at a ton of different scenes that are pasted together without any decent transfers.
True stories rarely make truly good movies. The Iceman has all the ingredients qua story and cast to succeed where others have failed but it might have been an idea to also invest a bit more in the script writers and director as these now make that this movie doesn’t manage to rise above the majority of average gangster movies. You want to see a real good movie about a hired assassin? Then Killer Joe is a better choice.
When looking at The Iceman the first thing that gets noticed are the somewhat washed out colors that perfectly fit the era in which the movie is situated and you would almost start to think the movie actually dates from that period. Luckily this isn’t the case and we do get sharp images and a transfer without compression errors. The level of detail is good and the image may not pop out of the screen, but it isn’t intended to do so either. Michael Shannon tries as Kuklinski to not get noticed and you can say the same about this transfer which mainly shines in decent quality without showing off.
The sound comes through a DTS-HD 5.1 track into our living room but this is clearly overkill. Except for a couple of scenes (a short car chase and a part in a discotheque) it’s all about dialogue and the occasional gunfire. The track does perfectly do what it’s supposed to and those dialogues are crystal clear while the surrounds do come into play when needed.
The disc contains an 8 minute “Behind the Scenes” in which we get to see short interview fragments with the cast and some footage from the movie. Clearly promotional in nature and little added value overall. Last up are some trailers for Hummingbird and Killing the Softly which you get to see before arriving at the menu.