Movies based on true stories are always tricky. Telling too much can result in plot overload, but not enough can take away the flavor of the real events. In the new film based on famed mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski titled "The Iceman" there’s a bit of both with some interesting tales of murder and woe, but also some unneeded details that bog things down. The ups and downs of adapting a life is a tough one indeed.
Richard Kuklinski is a very apathetic man emotionally. He has a seedy job as a porn bootlegger, which he seems not to mind and even manages to find a perky gal to marry and have a family with. But when he stumbles across the path of gangster Roy Demeo he finds himself into another line of work altogether. As a contract killer, Kuklinski becomes the perfect man to pull to trigger. His calm demeanor and uncaring attitude not only makes him an expert in the killing field, but he eventually becomes branded The Iceman for his icy cold disposition.
There’s a ton of side stories, colorful characters and sub plots all through "The Iceman" - some good, some bad. On the good side there’s the character chemistry between the pitch perfect Michael Shannon (is he ever bad?!) and his bride to be Winona Ryder. (And yes, she’s never been better!) Playing out the personal side of the private Kuklinski with such a believable and natural vibe, their work together nicely parallels the more grisly bits of his life. Plus there’s also some fantastic scene stealing work by an almost unrecognizable Chris Evans as a competing contract killer and a blink and you could miss it bit with jailbird brother Stephen Dorff that sends chills. On the down side there’s a ton of info and life details here and as a result The Iceman at times feels bogged down. Jumping in a seemingly uncohesive fashion, Director Ariel Vromen stages the flick like a long stage play that’s based on a really thick novel - not exactly befitting of the talent he has involved. Plus some of his characters feel like cardboard cutouts, especially the been there done that Ray Liotta in mafia mode, a goofy looking David Schwimmer and a totally unneeded James Franco.
Look, anything with Michael Shannon is worth checking out, but for me I like my movies based on real life to be lean and mean. "The Iceman" has the murderous meat of Kuklinski’s troubled tale for sure, but without a structured story safety net it’s like holding onto a sandwich with no bread. It will fill you up, but sloppy simply makes for an unmemorable meal.
"THE ICEMAN" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS MAY 3 FROM MILLENNIUM ENTERTAINMENT.
Title: "The Iceman"
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans
Director: Ariel Vromen
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Company: Millennium Entertainment