Film Reviews

The Iceman: Gory Mafia Film Lightened With Moments of Humor

Until his arrest in 1986, most people believed Richard Kuklinski to be an all-American family man. In reality, this suburban New Jersey "banker" made his fortune working as a hit man for the Mafia, killing more than 100 people and often freezing and dismembering their bodies to obscure the time of death. Depicted in the tone of a film noir and tinged with the tensions of a horror movie, Ariel Vromen's The Iceman follows this sociopath over the course of his career. Michael Shannon portrays Kuklinski in his dual lives, the highs of success spliced with acts of brutal murder, from the courtship with his wife, Barbara (played by a doe-eyed and anxious Winona Ryder), to his induction into a mob run by Ray Liotta, and a temporary partnership with a bohemian hit man who drives a Mr. Freezy truck (Chris Evans, untamed). Shannon gives an unnerving performance as a man caged in a cruel apathy, maintaining a controlled façade that seems to twitch with barely sublimated distress. Vromen hints at the motivations behind the psyche of a killer -- an abusive father and a Catholic yet godless upbringing (see James Franco cameo) -- and allows fragments of sympathy to slip in for Kuklinski and the fate set out for him from the film's clanking start: a life behind bars. The slasher gore is lightened with moments of humor, like David Schwimmer's handlebar mustache and dopey portrayal as Liotta's right-hand man, which elicits unintentional laughter. Ultimately, The Iceman is a blend of Mafia-film cliché and the jarring reality of lives undone by crime.

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Rebecca Moss