Published on September 30th, 2015 | by Clint Davis
The Iceman 
Summary: We see Michael Shannon in all his quiet intensity in this gangster flick about a real-life killer, but it's a little too quiet. This story about double lives has its moments but is ultimately forgettable.
R | 105 min.
Director: Ariel Vromen | Screenplay: Ariel Vromen, Morgan Land
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta
Studio: Bleiberg Entertainment, RabbitBandini Productions | Distribution: Millennium Films
It seems like ever since Martin Scorsese, the master of the modern gangster flick, stopped exclusively making those films, the genre has all but disappeared from cinemas. American audiences love watching hard-ass guys making tons of money by doing exactly what they want to do and damning the consequences — let’s face it, we all wish we could do that.
Ariel Vromen, a virtually unknown director, tried to put together a vintage gangster picture with 2012’s The Iceman — a film that ultimately left me bored. It’s not that this is a bad movie, the cast is very strong with just a few missteps and the figure at its center is interesting enough but there is too much time spent brooding. There is only one character in The Iceman that was actually fun to watch, while the rest of the players are just thugs with nothing interesting to add to the conversation.
We’ve come to expect great performances from Michael Shannon, an actor’s actor who has quickly become one of the go-to guys when a director needs a stoic face. In the title role of Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, a real life mafia hit man that supposedly killed over 100 men during his roughly 20 year career, Shannon is as coldblooded as we’ve seen him. I was ultimately left bored by his portrayal though because it simply felt like more of the same from the actor who was so raw and exciting the first time I saw him in Sam Mendes’s 2008 gut punch Revolutionary Road. Shannon’s take as Kuklinski ultimately reminded me of his magnetic turn in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire as the masochistic and off-balanced federal agent Nelson Van Alden — except much more one-dimensional.
In direct contrast to Shannon’s drab characterization, Chris Evans brings life to The Iceman as a fellow hit man that ends up forming a grim partnership with Kuklinski. Evans, most well known for playing Captain America, lights up the screen and makes you wish the film was centered on his character, Robert “Mr. Freezy” Pronge (I swear this isn’t a boxing movie). Pronge is played as this off-the-wall hilarious figure, despite having no moral compass and being a terrible father. The guy drives around in an ice cream truck with bodies stashed in the freezers while also doling out vanilla cones to kids at crowded parks…tell me he’s not the most interesting character in this picture!
What makes this an interesting story is its focus on the duality of man. The Iceman is about a man who lives the ultimate double life. Kuklinski is a cold blooded murderer-for-hire that freezes his victim’s bodies for years in a walk-in refrigerator, but on his days off he plays a loving father/husband to his family of three women. It’s entertaining to watch Shannon walk that thin line but as he gets older and more careless, the lines blur and he ultimately crashes in an ending that is revealed in the film’s opening moments.
I will say it’s worth watching The Iceman to see the mixed bag of actors Vromen has tossed together in its cast. In one scene, we see Shannon, Ray Liotta, John Ventimiglia and David freaking Schwimmer rolling in a car together! I can honestly say I never thought I’d witness Ross Geller and Artie Bucco hanging out, but Vromen made that dream that nobody had come true. But seriously, Schwimmer with his porn mustasche and track suit stick way out in this cast of tough guys.
The Iceman is not great cinema, it’s mostly a forgettable mafia biopic because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The film’s look is dim and dull and its score is nothing to write home to mom about. Skip this one unless you’re a diehard Michael Shannon fan or a nut for gangster flicks.