director Ariel Vromen
The Iceman was not a nice man. Richard Leonard “The Iceman” Kuklinski was a mob hitman who claimed to have killed between 100 and 250 people in his lifetime and career. Really, he’s kind of like a serial killer who got hired to do what he did. His work was largely efficient and yet highly varied in methodology. He was eventually caught and tried and wound up dying in jail in 2006.
The film The Iceman is a biographical tale of the man and his life. The majorly bizarre twist of his life was that he was also a happily married New Jersey suburbanite with wife and children who were totally oblivious to his brutal career. To them and those that knew him, he was a business man of obscure generality. And his devotion to his family suggested another side to the killer of so many.
Michael Shannon is cast as the cold, deeply disturbed man whose facade was largely one of calm and imperturbability. Shannon specializes in crazed types who also bear a gentler, more normal self inside, something empathetic in their world of crazy. Winona Ryder is his lovely wife, a role with some depth and range, though not a supremely complex one. Ryder is beautiful in the film, looking a bit young to have teenage girls as daughters. She’s pretty good in the film. She was maybe the tipping point that got this into my queue.
Director Ariel Vromen gets a lot of reasonably big names in smaller roles in the film, sort of surprising turns by the likes of David Schwimmer and Chris Evans. Vromen takes a pretty middle of the road approach to the narrative, going for a naturalism steeped in period clothing and dramatics of a traditional nature.
I kind of felt that there was something squandered here. The likes of David Lynch, Paul Schraeder, Ted Demme or Andrew Dominik might have found something more profound, humorous, ironic, or bizarre in the duplicity of Kuklinski’s life. It could have been turned to a more broader perspective on American life, like Demme’s Blow (2001) or Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (2012), viewed through the prism of crime and criminal culture. The material and ideas are there.
Vromen’s film is a solid drama though not utterly notable. It’s nice to see Winona in a bigger role, though.