Craig's First Take: "The Iceman"

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The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession. Starring Michael Shannon, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, Stephen Dorff & Robert Davi.
2.5

Movies like “The Iceman” will always remind you of the other, better, movies that inspired them. Your “Scarfaces”, “Goodfellas”, ect. They want to bring you back to a time and place, want to revel in the tough guy dialogue, love the grittiness of ideas like leading double lives and murder for the sake of living the American dream. I love these movies, and there probably aren’t many who don’t. But the best of them are great rise and fall stories or great character studies. “The Iceman” falls short because there is nothing to study. Hulking Manhattan hitman Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) was active between 1948 to 1986, known as the iceman because he would freeze the bodies of the men he killed so police could never figure out time of death. He’s portrayed as nothing more than an unflinching sociopath who had no problem killing, which he did for crime boss Ray DeMeo (Ray Liotta, sort of a staple in these types of movies). He cut throats, strangled, and shot between 100-250 men and mostly the movie just feels like it’s going from one hit to the next. We’re given very little insight, like why is killing women and children the one thing that bothers him? The movie also makes you wonder if Kuklinski’s wife (Winona Ryder) was really this deluded (even after she learns of some of his lies, she does nothing)? But Shannon is not only imposing in the lead role but extremely chilling and raging at certain points, you only wish he had more to do. In some surprise turns, Chris Evans shows up as another hitman who drives an ice cream truck, James Franco proves he’s not above taking a small cameo role, and David Schwimmer (looking like he’s morphed into Ron Jeremy) handles himself well as a low-life thug. But director Ariel Vroman (who co-wrote along with Morgan Land) seems so interested in the low-life lifestyle and so much less in the characters.