"Loving husband. Devoted father. Ruthless killer."
The main issue that I had with The Iceman is that the film never fulfills what it promises in its tagline. The Iceman never seemed like a loving husband or a devoted father. I never felt the chemistry between Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder. Shannon's character was completely detached from his wife, which would make sense considering he was a ruthless killer, but this film promised something different. Someone living a double life with no one ever suspecting him, kind of like what Kevin Costner delivered in Mr. Brooks. That was the film I was hoping to see, but somehow I felt unattached to these characters and this story. I never cared for these people and I felt there was something missing in the way the story was being told. It is a shame because the premise seemed really good and the cast is really talented, but Israeli director, Ariel Vromen, never managed to deliver a thrilling story. As a killer, The Iceman, delivered what I expected. He had no problem killing whoever his target was unless it implied killing women or children. He didn't feel any sort of remorse and all he cared about was not letting his family discover who he really was. It is that family part which I thought wasn't approached well and could have made a difference in a genre like this that is so well known. I didn't feel the balance that this man was supposed to have between his family life and his work, which is what attracted me to this film in the first place. Without that The Iceman felt like an ordinary assassin story.
The film is based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a cold blooded contract killer working for the mafia during the 70's. There have been books written about him (The Iceman by Anthony Bruno) and documentaries (The Iceman Tapes directed by Jim Thebaut) which served as a starting point for the screenplay. In my opinion if you want more facts or if its an autobiography you are looking for then check those out because this screenplay only scratches the surface. Richard began working for the mafia as a porn film lab tech. He met the love of his life, Deborah (Winona Ryder), who worked at a local restaurant and an year later they got married. They had two daughters, and no one in his family or circle of friends suspected about his double life. Richard lied about his work with the mafia claiming he worked for Disney dubbing their cartoons, and later when he became a contract killer and started making more money he claimed to be an investor. He was hired by mafia boss, Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta), but when things get complicated he becomes an independent contractor teaming up with the psychotic Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans) making several enemies along the way. James Franco, David Schwimmer, and Stephen Dorff all play smaller secondary roles.
Michael Shannon is a great actor and he has made several mediocre movies worth seeing, but he can't do much here to save this poorly written script that barely explores the psyche of this cold blooded killer because it fails to create tension between his loving family life and his disconnected ability to kill anyone without hesitation. His character is simply one dimensional. At least Shannon has quite some screen time because the rest of the characters in this film are completely cardboard cut out ones. Ray Liotta plays the stereotypical mob boss and there is no backstory to his character. James Franco and Stephen Dorff barely have any screen time and their roles seem like cameos. David Schwimmer plays a rather laughable character, I don't think he was the right person for the role. Chris Evans is a well known actor, but he goes over the top here in his portrayal of the psychotic Mr. Freezy. It is a shame that the screenwriters never managed to create tension between his family life and his profession. They could have used some help from the writers of Dexter which if given the choice I'd rather watch an old episode of this TV show than re watching this movie. The film lacked that balance between the family drama and the mob criminal world. As a character study film it fails as well because the film never explores the psyche of this cold blooded murderer.