Monday, May 6, 2013

The Iceman

Dating Edward Scissorhands undoubtedly helped Winona Ryder prepare for marriage to Michael Shannon in "The Iceman," a new film about the contract killer Richard Kuklinski, responsible for more than 100 hits before his arrest in 1986.
Ryder's such an exceptionally talented actress, it's a pleasure to see her back onscreen in a second-billed role; I just wish there were more to her Deborah than the standard domestic vicissitudes portrayed here. She literally had no idea about hubby's line of work when the feds came for him; though she didn't understand the details, she thought he worked in currency exchange.

Richard himself stumbled into contract killing almost accidentally. Soft-spoken to the point of meekness, he had a job cutting tape at a porn studio owned by a small-time local hood until a family of Italian origin decided to take over the operation. Their man on the ground, Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta), came by with a few friends one day and waved some guns in Richard's face. But the strangest thing happened: Richard didn't flinch. Roy sensed Richard's talents weren't being maximized in the editing room and hired him on the spot for "whatever needed to be done."

"The Iceman" is not a documentary, but it goes about its business as coolly and professionally as Richard himself, neither building up to his hits in dramatic fashion nor wallowing in them afterward. While there's a fair amount of tension throughout "The Iceman" and even (thanks to Chris Evans as Mr. Freezy, an ice-cream-truck driver who moonlights in murder) some humor, the movie's not amoral like Kuklinski; rather, director Ariel Vroman believes in letting the facts speak for themselves. As always, Shannon is hard to turn away from; he's perpetually pent-up, and you feel the strain it takes to contain himself. I keep waiting, though, for him to let loose as an actor (as he did in his Oscar-nominated few minutes of screen time in the otherwise unwatchable "Revolutionary Road") and take us to places neither he nor we want to go.

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