Thursday, October 31, 2013

Movie Review: “The Iceman”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast

   Michael Shannon portrays mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski in this retelling based on true events. Shannon is superb, both menacing and sinister and seems right at home in this role. Ray Liotta plays Roy Demeo, the boss of Kuklinski and seems to just get better with these types of roles the more he does them. I suppose they have become second nature to him. Winona Ryder is the unsuspecting wife, Deborah Kuklinski, and plays her role of ignorant homemaker very well. Chris Evans is Robert Pronge, another mafia contract killer that befriends Kuklinski (as much as anyone can be) as well as temporary partner. James Franco plays the fleeting role of Marty Freeman...and delivers in one of the best scenes in the film.

The Plot: 
   From 1964 to 1986, Richard Kuklinski killed well over one hundred people. This is the story of what this man was...although we may never understand who he was.

   The film starts by showing Kuklinski in reflection of his recent life. A life that starts out with him very much in love with his wife and very much involved with making and maintaining a family. He has friends, neighbors...a complete picture of normalcy when viewed by the uninitiated. It doesn’t take long for the audience to get initiated though as something as simple as a few insults levied about his wife during a game of pool, quickly leads to a swift and brutal murder.

   When Kuklinski’s job as a porn film editor comes to an unexpected halt, he is offered alternative employment for which he seems to be naturally suited. His job is simple...follow the orders given to him. The fact that those orders more often than not involve ending someone’s life doesn’t even seem to register anywhere on the emotional spectrum for Kuklinski. It was noted by his boss Demeo, while holding a gun in the face of Kuklinski, that nothing but ice water must be flowing through his his eyes reveal nothing, but worse still, reflect nothing either.

   Things begin to take a bad turn after Kuklinski leaves a young woman alive after completing a job (the infamous James Franco scene), sighting the fact to his displeased boss that he doesn’t kill women and children. Around this time is when he meets Robert Pronge. Because of the rash actions of another one of his crew, Demeo shuts down all his dealings, effectively putting Kuklinski out of work once again. To continue his lifestyle and the charade of investor to his wife, Kuklinski partners with Pronge, against the express orders of Demeo to do no work (related to their criminal business).

   As the body count continues, Kuklinski’s alternate employment is eventually discovered by Demeo setting into motion a series of events leading to his eventual capture. Kuklinski, feeling desperate in the face of his family being in danger and daughter being attacked, begins to tie up his own loose ends...none of which can be tied, without a plethora of bodies being involved.

The Verdict: 
   This film is cold...and I’m not just making a pun (but there it is nonetheless). As I watched the story unfold, the depravity of Kuklinski really sinks in as kept reminding myself that this was not just some fictional film, but acts based on real life events. People really died in the horrible and gruesome ways shown. This man was really remorseless and ruthless, and yet, tender and gentle with his family. The mask he wore was his family, who didn’t understand the signs of a broken mind displayed right in front of them at select occurrences.

   The expectation of this film being the kind of film a person would write for entertainment using organized crime as the backdrop is ill advised. It’s not like that, even though it feels like that. The plot is simple: presented before you is Richard Kuklinski. The acting is superb by everyone and is a saving grace for the pace of the film which tries to delve into a mind no sane person wants to experience. I kept waiting for Kuklinski to explode as Shannon plays him to be a ticking time bomb. I wasn’t disappointed in that regard, there are quite a few “explosions” in this film. 

   The thought you put into combing your hair or making a sandwich has more feeling and connectivity than any murder Kuklinski committed, with the possible exception of the James Franco scene...where he entertained the idea of God personally intervening to save Franco. It’s this type of disconnection, while committing the ultimate act of ending life, that makes this film so unhinging...and yet, so engaging. By the end of the film, all I could do was reflect and continue to process everything I had just seen. This alone adds quality to any film rating, and this film murdered three and a half, out of five, cinnamon sticks, in my cup of tea.

Rating 3.5/5

There are several videos of the real Kuklinski...making this film no less of what it was.

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