The Iceman (Millennium Entertainment, R)

film the-iceman_smIt would be hard to think of a more by-the-numbers, unimaginative genre pic.




film the-iceman

Ariel Vromen’s new film The Iceman reminds me very much of this past January’s release, Gangster Squad. Both films are gangster movies, both are based on true stories, and both are just unbelievably generic—but both have really good casts. To put a finer point on it, the only reason to see either movie is the cast; it would be hard to think of a more by-the-numbers, unimaginative genre pic than either of these two films.

The Iceman tells the story of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon, one of my very favorite actors right now), a Polish contract killer for the Italian mob. Despite having more than 100 murders connected to him, Kuklinski—a truly devoted husband and father—has been able to keep his loving family in the dark about the whole thing. The film follows Kuklinski as he woos his future wife Deborah (Winona Ryder, who’s nice to see); is scouted by mob boss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta, the most unimaginative casting choice in the film, but he’s still good at what he does); and begins a partnership with a much less-disciplined hit man, Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans, whom I’ve liked in pretty much everything except the role for which he is most known: Captain America), who also drives an ice cream truck on the side. Along the way, Kuklinski has run-ins with his convict brother Joey (Stephen Dorff); one of his more memorable hits is played by James Franco; and, in the most curious (and weirdly successful) casting choice, David Schwimmer, Friends’ Ross Gellar, turns up as a mob goon with a long ponytail and bad mustache.

But really, this great cast can’t overcome just how uninspired and beaten into the ground this whole story is. This is one of those movies where you always know what’s going to happen next: “Oh, that guy’s going to die”; “This guy is going to cause a crisis of conscience for Kuklinski”; “The movie must not be in its third act yet, because no one has put Kuklinski’s family in danger”; “Oh, Kuklinski’s about to get caught”; etc. If you’re really into gangster movies the way some people are, you might like this one, given that it tries its hardest to be just like all of the classics that defined the genre (though it in no way succeeds in doing so; it still might remind you of other, better movies). If you want to see The Iceman because of the cast—particularly if you’re a Michael Shannon fan (as well you should be)—you’re likely to be very disappointed that they all didn’t put their considerable talents toward a more deserving project. | Pete Timmermann

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