Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, James Franco, David Schwimmer, Stephen Dorff, Erin Cummings, Robert Davi
Written by: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen, based on a book by Anthony Bruno, and on a documentary by Jim Thebaut
Directed by: Ariel Vromen
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content
Running Time: 106
Date: 10/05/2013

The Iceman (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Going for the Cold

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on real events, the story of Richard Kuklinski is definitely an odd one. He supposedly killed over 100 people while remaining a loving husband and father to two girls, and they never knew what he was up to.

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) starts out in the 1960s working in a warehouse, making prints of porn movies. He meets Deborah (Winona Ryder) and starts dating her, but it's clear that something's up since he has the cold, calculating ability to kill a man after a minor squabble in a bar. Later, a powerful hood, Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta), hires him as a contract killer, and he starts to climb the ladder of success. He marries Deborah and raises two girls. But after an error on a job, he's suspended, and starts his own side business with another killer, "Mr. Freezy" (Chris Evans), who uses chemicals and modern methods. But it's only a matter of time before Roy figures out what's going on and seeks revenge on Richie and his family.

It would be difficult to mess up a story like this. However, director Ariel Vromen chooses to film it in a fairly straightforward way, using the well-worn, standard-issue biopic formula that has won many Oscars. Happily, this formula usually allows for at least one great performance, and we get that from Michael Shannon in the lead role. He's already a fearsome actor with a warm patch of humanity, and no one else could have played the role so completely. Likewise, Winona Ryder expertly re-invents herself for her role, and is nearly unrecognizable. The rest of the movie feels rather ordinary, though. It's serviceable, but rarely comes alive.

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