Film Review: The Iceman

The only thing that really drew me to The Iceman was the inclusion of Winona Ryder. And even then, it very nearly didn’t happen as I somehow managed to cross it off the “to watch” list of On-Demand movies before I’d actually seen it. But, having rescued it from the fraudulent strikethrough, I had a quick glimpse at the trailer, remembered what drew me to it in the first place and fired up the Curzon Home Cinema service.

And I’m very glad I did, because while it isn’t a classic film that will ever really be lauded about, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it’s easily the best film of 2015 for me so far. But then we are only 6 days in, so it’s not the greatest of praise. Essentially The Iceman is the true story of Richard Kuklinski, a notorious contract killer and family man who’s reign of fatality spanned 30 years.

Richard & Babara Kuklinski - The Iceman

Obviously, I am always slightly wary of any film that is based on, or claims to be “the truth” as cinematically, that exact meaning can vary so wildly that it almost borders on misrepresentation, but even without the real life basis of the plot, the final story is gripping and interesting and truly kept my attention. The longer it went on the more it sucked me in and the more I became fascinated by the motives and actions of the characters involved.

Sadly though, while the film raises a vast number of questions and opens up an interesting debate on the nature/nurture argument and the loyalty and love of family, I found at times it never quite spoke loudly enough to really make it’s point. The more I wanted to explore exactly why Kuklinski became who he did and “what, why and how” he was driven to the career path he was, the more it seems to shy away from it. I think in part that may be down to the fact that being based on a specific, real life person, and suggesting therefore, that there is a degree of honestly in its narrative accuracy, they have only relayed the information and reasonings that they know are true, or have been told. Rather than invent “anew” for cinematic purposes. But of course I could be wrong.

Michael Shannon in the title role is stunning and you instantly believe he is Kuklinski and not an actor playing just another role. He really manages to capture the suffering mental segregation and destruction before bringing it to life in a way that conveys it to you as the audience with crystal clear clarity and force. In fact, I found his performance so good that I’m surprised it didn’t get more interest from the mainstream awards. Mention must also be made of David Schwimmer, who seriously has thrown off his Friends tag and is so unrecognisable¬†that if he’d put on any form of accent I would have never realised it was him. Only his “twang” breaking the illusion.

Michael Shannon & Winona Ryder - The Iceman

Unfortunately, though the reason I was drawn to the film was the inclusion of Winona Ryder, and with a huge part of Kuklinski’s character and motives based around his love and loyalty of his family, of which Ryder play’s his wife, she feels not only underutilised but also a weak link in the cast. You never really feel like she’s being allowed to tell her side of the story. Appearing to be dropped in and out when they want to break the tension slightly rather than really examining how she fits into the character and lifestyle of Richard Kuklinski. But I draw your attention back to my earlier statement about being this film feeling slightly hamstrung by the potential lack of depth to the source material.

I think I was always going to enjoy The Iceman; after all I have just applied to undertake a psychology degree and so, a crime drama with a heavy psychological theme bubbling away under the surface would certainly appeal to my interests and learnings, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The only real issue I can find with it is that it didn’t delve as far as you felt it could into the mental aspects of it’s story, it’s characters. It’s a tale that feels narrative rather than dramatic, and this ends up creating a chilling portrait of a character which never really ramps up the tension or emotion. It entertains you but never moves you or really gets under your skin.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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