Richie Kuklinski's life is absolutely riveting if you read through the first few paragraphs of his wikipedia page. But Ariel Vromen's The Iceman, based on his life is, well, rather insipid. The one aspect that sets it apart from other films about contract killers is that the protagonist's family isn't aware of his misdeeds. There could be a few more movies which match the description for all I know. Sadly this one facet is hardly critical or unique enough to warrant our attention for two hours.
On the first date with his wife-to-be, Richie tells her that he draws cartoons for disney. He may or may not be lying. We don't know yet. The enchantment on the girl's face, who is giddy with excitement, is palpable. A few weeks later, Richie is seen playing snooker with a few men. One of them disrespects his future wife, he swallows his anger and decides its not worth it. A few minutes later, he slits the throat of that person in a dark alley. So we have a family-man slash psycho-killer on our hands.
Richie is an awful man who will kill anyone who is not a woman or a child. Anyone. When you read about him, you get a better idea just how abominable his actions were. He admitted to killing a large number of bums in order to perfect his skill. That's plain horrific. But the film tries to humanize him a little too much. Soon enough, his conduct oddly doesn't shock us anymore. As he goes about killing major characters, you don't feel a thing. You don't have anyone to hold on to in this tale. Richie is simply too crazy to care for and you can forget about sympathy for his family. They are either stupid or really stupid for not asking where all the money was coming from. With no one to root for, this cold story fills us up with apathy.
Shannon gets to add another role to his growing collection of deranged characters. His performances in Revolutionary Road and Take Shelter have made him a personal favorite. Yet this particular, brooding performance lacks charisma. You are neither infatuated nor repelled by him. This was still an era of the great New York crime families and the film does throw a few popular American mafia names at us. But there's nothing larger than life about it. Richie captures your imagination when you read about how he used to freeze his victims to disguise the time of death, but the impact the film manages to make is always subdued.
The Iceman also stars Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, James Franco and Chris Evans. Despite the kind of talent this project has attracted, the film hardly does any justice to the material at hand. The film cries out loud for some glamour, for some Scorsese. I wish the late James Gandolfini had got to portray Richard Kuklinski. He would have been perfect the role.view less