The Iceman – 2013

Director Ariel Vroman
Starring Michael Shannon, Winona Rider, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, James Franco, David Schwimmer, Stephen Dorff, Erin Cummings, Robert Davi
Screenplay by Vroman and Morgan Land

No one can economize a performance like Michael Shannon.  His countenance is always sober, but seething underneath.  His performance in Man of Steel was a thankless one, given his competition was another great sober seether, Terence Stamp.  Naturally, he had to take an alternate path, and that path was exaggerated passion.  In The Iceman, Shannon is back to the quiet storm.  Shannon’s performance as Richard Kuklinski,  the real life hitman of somewhere between 100 and 1000 people, is spot on.  He is literally the guy you don’t want to make eye contact with at the diner.

The Iceman plays like a lean version of Goodfellas.  These are the same type of guys.  Ray Liotta is even here this time.  It even takes place at around the same time as the Scorsese classic.  This time, it’s the guy who does the hard work, instead of the 3 wise guys that send him to it.  Somehow, with no barrier between himself and the crooks he works for, he manages to raise a family.  Like any working class schmo.

Vroman efficiently portrays events that were likely combined with others. My only complaint would be that the efficiency borders on brevity,   We find out through well placed flashbacks that he is the product of an abusive environment that leaves one amazed that he did not kill more.  His rational approach to his chosen profession was a delicate balance.  He loved his family, and felt absolutely nothing for the rest of us.  All one had to do, in his rationale, was to leave him and his family alone.  Those who did not follow this rule lost the game.

Rider has perhaps her best performance since Girl, Interrupted.  Her loving, somewhat insecure Deborah, is simple enough to be shocked to discover after years together that her husband edits porn as compared to the cartoon voice over career he told her she had.  She is then wise enough to not ever ask him why he lied to her.  They have kids to raise, after all.

Ray Liotta has the same kind of energy that he has used in his better performances.  Chris Evans is thoroughly committed to his role as Kuklinski’s occasional partner.  James Franco gives my favorite performance by just getting killed like a coward.  Brava.

For anyone who can handle the aforementioned Scorsese classic, this film will work.  Extra points go for those who appreciate seeing one of the world’s top actors in his prime.

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