The Iceman

12 Jun

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Yesterday I watched ‘The Iceman’ which follows notorious contract killer, Richard Kuklinski from his early days in the mob all the way to his arrest years later.  The film begins with Kuklinski and his soon-to-be wife, Deborah, on a date in a cafe, at the beginning of their courtship.   The scenes between Kuklinski (played by the brilliant Michael Shannon) and his wife, Deborah (played by my 90s girl crush, Winona Ryder) are particularly touching as he emanates a vulnerability and warmth with her that is near impossible when portraying such a cold-hearted killer.  On first appearance, he seems almost shy, finding it difficult to engage in deep conversation but Shannon’s portrayal of Kuklinski is ultimately an endearing one.  There are suggestions that he has been exposed to poor male role models as his views on machismo seem to be highly skewed – when Deborah questions the tattoo of the Grim Reaper on his hand, he says that he got it to appear tough – and this appears to be a recurring theme throughout the film.  That is not to say that this is supposed to justify his actions.  What the film does incredibly well is raise many questions regarding whether someone can be inherently evil.  Kuklinski was convicted of over one hundred killings and in his interviews he showed no remorse; however, the depth of his feeling towards his family (his brother was also a convicted murderer) and the abuse he received as a child seem to point more strongly towards the ‘nurture’ argument.

The best thing about the film was undoubtedly Shannon’s raw and riveting performance.  There is something so interesting and enticing about his face, his presence and his whole demeanour that it is very difficult to take your eyes away from him.  I’m not usually into films that fit into the ‘True Story’ genre as I find many to be overly  cheesy; however, this was not a problem for ‘The Iceman.’  I felt that the film explored Kuklinski’s career as a contract killer and his life as a family man in just the right amounts so ‘The Iceman’ never veered into mindless violent territory or sentimental mush.   

The dialogue was good, though I can understand some of the criticisms it has received in that at times it can seem slightly predictable and forced, but Shannon’s performance more than makes it up for me. I enjoyed the film immensely and walked away from it wanting to learn more about the real life Kuklinski – a fascinatingly sinister character.

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