The Iceman Venice Review & Press Conference

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Blessed with a deep, talented cast and a fluid script, Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman gives a unique and fresh perspective on the notorious mob contract killer, Richard Kuklinsky (Michael Shannon). While some similarities to less glamourized and stylized ‘mob genre’ films (think Donny Brasco or Mesrine: Killer Instinct) are evident, Vromen’s film owes more of its look and feel to In Cold Blood but without Capote’s intervening journalistic narrative.

Vromen and cast certainly did their journalistic homework on Kuklinsky and his world, and many scenes have a documentarist’s eye. No surprise since Vromen has a strong pedigree as a documentary filmmaker (Skeptical, 2011). Vromen’s framing is matter of fact and the art design minimalist. The texture and coloration is primarily vivid but dark reflecting the grisly subject matter, the only exception being richer colors and light in Kuklinsky’s domestic life. Yes, this cold-blooded killer was a ‘loving’ father and husband and while you loathe and fear him, you find yourself oddly sympathetic to him as a father and provider. Therein lies the contradiction that Vromen has fully embraced. We are given flashbacks to Kuklinsky’s father severely abusing Richard as a boy, a riveting prison visit scene with his brother (Joey) also a killer, played by Michael Dorff, for some rationale as to how Kuklinsky became the notorious Iceman. Psychiatrists have provided various diagnoses of Kuklinsky including ‘Paranoid Personality Disorder’, ‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’ and more generally as a ‘prototypical psychopath’. But in the end his mob colleagues got it right. ‘The Iceman’ more aptly describes Kuklinsky more than any clinical diagnosis ever could.

Michael Shannon’s portrayal is extraordinary, like peeling an artichoke to reveal who Kuklinsky was, and layer after layer being drawn in emotionally but never getting any answers, never getting to the heart of what made him tick. Driven mostly by a controlled rage, and that is what is most terrifying, Kuklinsky is methodical, almost clinical, in carrying out his paid hits. He even murders for vengeance resulting from an insult from strangers or misstep by associates, then calmly sitting down for a family dinner. Shannon nails it and is supported by remarkable performances from Winona Ryder as his wife Deborah, and McKaley Miller (Anabel) and Megan Sherrill (Betsy) as his two daughters.

And Vromen deserves some credit for soliciting superb performances from his actors including those from Chris Evans as fellow contract killer Robert Pronge and James Franco in a brief turn as Marty, a porn photographer.  But it is Shannon’s threatening exchanges with Ray Liotta as mob underboss Roy Demeo that will stick with you. We know Ray Liotta can play dangerous and even deranged (Good FellasSomething Wild) but his Roy Demeo is somewhat more complex and compromising as a ruthless mobster. He matches frame for frame Shannon’s intensity and perverse instincts but when it comes to carrying out a hit on his troublesome lackey/protégé Josh Rosenthal, played by the surprisingly cast David Schwimmer (and a very satisfying surprise), he can’t bring himself to finish it. Few actors can deliver such an asymmetrical duality, vulnerability beneath their steely stare – Shannon and Liotta certainly do.

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The Iceman Venice Review & Press Conference

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Michael Shannon at Venice Film Festival

The Iceman Cast at the Red Carpet


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