Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Matt Bellamy versus The Iceman

Richard Kuklinsi, born April 11, 1935, to Polish, and Irish immigrant parents, had a troubled upbringing. His older brother was beaten to death by their father while throughout his formative years he, as well as his younger brother, were subjected to constant abuse themselves. Richard's remaining brother, at the age of 12, was convicted of raping and murdering a 12-year old girl--his response when asked about the crime? "We come from the same father."

Richard Kuklinski is a serial killer. Although only convicted of three murders, he claims to have killed between 100 and 250 men between 1948 and 1986. He has been referred to as a hitman, a mob enforcer, and one of the most notorious contract killers in history.

Richard Kuklinski is a psychopath, a monster, a ghoul. He is The Iceman.

Early on in The Iceman, directed by Ariel Vroman, we meet Richard (played brilliantly by the always enigmatic Michael Shannon) as he sits across the table from Deborah (Winona Ryder), barely meeting her eyes, and hardly uttering a word. He fidgets with his coffee spoon until finally Deborah speaks up, holding Richard to task for not saying anything, and making her feel uncomfortable. This is a date, and the beginning of a long union between the two unlikely individuals. Richard may be a quiet man but he is not dim, even though his hulking stature may say otherwise, he's a fairly intelligent guy who would rather blend in with the scenery. Shortly after, while out playing pool with friends, a man hurls a personal insult Richard's way, any innocuous insult that would not be uncommon to hear in a smoky pool hall. Nothing is done about it, the jab is left to dissipate, and the night eventually winds down. Later, Richard slits the man's throat as he's getting into his car in the alley, and slinks away into the darkness. It takes only seconds. This is a man with ice running through his veins, and a man you do not want to slight.

Richard Kuklinski loves his wife, and his children but away from them he is a man you do not want to know. Those who are familiar with him away from his family are witness to an extremely different individual. In the pornographic film business he works in (he tells his wife he dubs cartoons), he is introduced to mob boss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who takes an interest in his steely exterior, and seemingly fearless disposition. Roy pulls a gun on Richard in one of their first scenes together, and it barely elicits a reaction; this is one calm, and cool dude. Can he murder a homeless man when told to, just minding his business enjoying a cigarette in an alley? It's a test, and Richard passes with flying colours as he hunches down next to the poor guy, exchanges a few friendly words, and then shoots him point blank three times with a snub nosed revolver. Roy is pleased with not only the obedience but the cold-bloodedness of the act, as well--there's potential here.

The strengths of The Iceman are Michael Shannon's towering portrayal of this monster, and the occasional vicious kill however everything else feels surprisingly flat in comparison. It's truly disappointing that the rest of the movie could not keep up with the central performance because it feels like it is absolutely in search of a better film. I felt like I lost the pulse early on, and for the remainder of the runtime it was just essentially a "paint-by-numbers" crime flick, one you've seen countless times before, from Goodfellas all the way to Kill The Irishman! We even get a "murder montage" relatively early on in his "wet work" career that although pretty cool, it really softens the blow of every other violent act that precedes it because now we've seen it all. Richard kills a drug addled scumbag (played by James Franco in a cameo), pleading for his life. Rinse, repeat. Richard dis-obeys orders, gets angry, and shoots Robert Davi in the face--uh oh! Rinse, repeat. That's the biggest problem here is that everything eventually becomes redundant, and you soon realize that this flick has nothing else to say. Richard is a horrible person, and that's that. Did we really need a movie to glamorize this piece of filth?

I will say that the casting was constantly amusing me, I'll give it some points for that. As mentioned above, James Franco makes an appearance, as does veteran character actor Robert Davi. We're also treated to seeing David Schwimmer, nearly unrecognizable, sporting a greasy ponytail, and a full on porn stache as one of the mobsters. It's almost worth the watch alone to see Ross from Friends gun down a crack den of junkies--no, I'm not kidding. Chris Evans as well is hidden under a mop of long, greasy hair, portraying a fellow contract killer who operates out of an ice cream truck. That may sound crazy, and made up for the movie but that's totally true, his character is based on a real person whose M.O. was making hits from a "Tastee Freeze"!

Colourful characters, and a remarkable lead performance from Michael Shannon aside, this movie really did not do a whole lot for me. Not all that much was added to this genre, the look of it is dull, and the kills get boring once you've seen them a dozen times already. I'm a huge fan of crime flicks, especially those dealing with true crime, so I was chomping at the bit to finally check this out however I came away from it decidedly unimpressed. The Iceman gets a Bad.
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