The Iceman Review – One Cool Hit

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The Iceman,” from Millennium Films and Ehud Bleiberg, brings to the screen the true story of coldblooded contract killer and devoted family man Richard Kuklinski recounting his thirty years as one of the mafia’s most notorious hit man.

Directed by Ariel Vromen, who co-wrote the screenplay, “The Iceman” is based on the HBO Documentary “The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman” in which Richard Kuklinski, from prison, details his double life as mob hit man who over the course of three decades murdered at least 100 people and possibly more and champion of the home life.

The Iceman,” written Morgan Land and Vromen, draws the viewer into the sociopathic world of Kuklinski, embodied by Michael Shannon, a relatively unknown that has emerged a star from Martin Scorsese’s “Boardwalk Empire,” who captures the polarized worlds of a ruthless, heartless and later labeled the most dangerous killer of our time, and the devoted, caring, loving husband, who at all costs protects and defends his wife and family.

We first come in contact with Richard Kuklinski as he is attempting to win the affections of Deborah Pellicotti, played by Winona Ryder, a shy, Jersey girl, with a proper, Italian, upbringing who has agreed after some time to have coffee with this persistent, funny and determined guy.

Believing her husband worked in animation as he explained during their first date, when in fact he dubbed porn distributed by the local organized crime family, she had no reason to turn down his proposal and the two moved quickly into marriage and soon had a child on the way.

In a midnight run in over a delayed shipment with the local mob boss, Kuklinski, holds his ground and his temper. After the mob closed down the porn studio, he was out of work and by this time had another child on the way and financially leveraged.

Recruited by Crime Boss Roy Demeo, played brilliantly by Ray Liotta, as his personal hit man, Kuklinski in a do or die economic decision, proves he can handle the killings and has the chops for the brutal, sadistic, merciless life he is about to enter. Shannon, a towering presence, is masterful in his performance as the initial killings, depicted in a collage of methods, rolled into years of contract work.

Apparently the killing business is big business and Kuklinski earned in the high five figures for each contract hit. The film follows the early days, of organized crime, in the 1960’s when mob hit men were hired outside the “family” through the 1970’s and into the early 1980’s when contract killers went in-house and former good fellows were getting whacked all over Manhattan and Jersey.  

The Iceman” is engrossing from the beginning. A fan of the classic mob films and the mean streets of New York, “The Iceman” although filmed entirely in Louisiana, depicts Manhattan with such authenticity that even seasoned New Yorker’s will believe.

What I found interesting is the ability for both to lead the double life, for decades, without either spouse questioning. Granted it was a different time, a different era, pre-women’s movement evolution.

Winona Ryder shines in her role as mousey wife, Deborah, meandering along in the world of man, marriage, wife, suburbia, and family. She is as devoted to her gentle giant as he is to her. Their children attend private catholic school, they have a nice home in Bergen County, New Jersey, and she is a typical commuter’s wife.

She doesn’t question and clearly believes everything she is told by her husband who stumbles, as far as she knows, into the power broker life of a Wall Street trader after working in animation, aka dubbing porn, in Jersey. It could happen!

Okay. So it was a time when men were breadwinners and women were homemakers. As far as Mrs. Kuklinski knew her husband worked on Wall Street and made a considerable amount of money.

The all star cast is rounded out by Chris Evans who portrays Mr. Freezy, a freelance contract killer who teams up with Kuklinski, David Schwimmer plays Josh Rosenthal, the “nephew” of Roy Demeo. Robert Davi, brings his signature tough guy to the role of Gambino wiseguy Leo Marks and Danny Abeckaser, plays Kuklinski’s best friend Dino Lapron. James Franco appears in a cameo performance as Marty Freeman. Newcomers Megan Sherrill and McKaley Miller join the all star ensemble as Kuklinski’s daughter’s Betsey and Anabel Kuklinski.

Ariel Vromen’s “The Iceman” ushers in a new era of mob films destined to be a classic alongside Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellows.”

The Iceman,” is one cool hit! See it!

"The Iceman” opens in theaters everywhere May 3, 2013.

 

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