The Iceman

Screened at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival

Michael Shannon makes an incomparable psychopath. Playing true-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski, he is a concentrated ball of pent-up malevolent energy, his every motion and shift of the eyes threatening an explosion, his distinctive lumber becoming the implacable gait of a slasher. At one point, The Iceman gives him an immaculate stenciled mustache that, on Shannon, is a more terrifying facial appendage than Bane’s mask. It’s a ferocious performance, rendering “over the top” into a meaningless platitude: he’s so committed and palpably intense that it’s impossible to figure where “the top” would even be in relation to him.

Shannon is the only reason that The Iceman is playing major festivals like Telluride and Venice. The film has precisely two ideas in which it attempts to frame Kuklinski’s ultra-violent and not terribly interesting saga: first, that in addition to being a cold-blooded killer, he was also a committed family man; and second, that his ability to murder without a second thought has roots in his abusive childhood. The latter notion isn’t worth the three pages on which the two scenes addressing it were printed, and the former isn’t explored beyond “well, isn’t that an interesting contrast.” What’s left is a drab, remedial gangster film, peppered with lame screenwriter’s notions of what constitutes “colorful” supporting characters. The reference to Goodfellas in the festival program is a firing offense.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

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10 Years

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Jonathan Levine, 2013

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Score: B+

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