The Iceman
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
"The Iceman" (2013 release; 106 min.; not to be confused with the 1984 movie "Iceman" with Timothy Hutton) brings the true-life story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious New Jersey contract killer with a double life as devoted husband and father. As the movie opens, there is a very short glimpse of a very old Kuklinksi, saying "I don't regret anything", after which we are transported back in time to 1964 when Kuklinski (played by Michael Shannon) is on a date with Debbie (played by Winona Ryder). Debbie asks him what he does and he answers "I do Disney movies" (when in reality we later find out he works as a porn movie manufacturer). It is the beginning of a long double-life. Kuklinski and Debbie get married and soon have two young daughters. Meanwhile, Kuklinski gets involved in dubious dealings that lead him to become a contract killer. To tell you much more of the plot would surely ruin your viewing pleasure, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out,

Several comments: this movie (which in the end credits is shown to be based on the book of the same name, as well as the infamous "Iceman Tapes: Interviews With a Killer") is chilling and hard-as-nails, but ultimately riveting and yes, entertaining. There isn't so much surprise as to the story (since we all pretty much know how it's going to end), but in the circumstances of the story. How was Kuklinski able to have parallel lives in which his family had no idea about his "other life"? Director Ariel Vromen does a great job in giving us clues. About midway into the movie there is a pivotal scene in which we see Kuklinski visiting his younger brother, who it turns out is in jail for murdering a 12 yr. girl. When Kuklinski tells him he now has a wife and 2 daughters, his brother goes ballistic, telling him "you're no better than me, we're screwed up in the head". There is another clutch scene in the movie: Kuklinski, with his family in the car, gets involved in a fender bender, and the other driver insults/threatens his wife, which send Kuklinski over the top (I won't reveal what exactly happens).

The performances in the movie are mostly outstanding, none more so than Michael Shannon, bringing a tour-de-force as we watch him in the role of Kuklinski over a 20 year period (mid-60s to mid-80s). But I was also quite impressed by Winona Ryder, whom I hadn't seen on screen in quite a while. Her role as the clueless but devoted wife and mother is top-notch. Check out also David "Friends" Schwimmer in a smaller role as Josh (another mobster) and James Franco in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo (less than 5 min. screen time). Please note that I did not mention Ray Liotta, I mean, how many more mobster characters can the guy still bring? There was some nice music placement, we hear ELO's "Livin' Thing" during a roller-skating outing of Kuklinski and his family, and later we also get Blondie's "Heart of Glass" in a disco scene where a hit is planned.

Bottom line: this movie flew by in no time for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, more so for the performances than for anything else. There are quite a bit of violent scenes, so this is probably not for anyone faint of heart. This movie showed up this weekend on a single screen for all of Greater Cincinnati, but I must say that, given the subject matter of the movie, I was quite surprised how well attended the screening was when I saw this. If you are in the mood for something gritty and dark with outstanding performances, you cannot go wrong with this. "The Iceman" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those gnarly stories based on real life; Richard Kuklinski's story has to be true, no one could make it up. In this R-rated thriller written and directed by Ariel Vromen, we see what shapes a contract killer, what is important to him and whether or not he holds any values. It's awkward for an audience when we find ourselves in a position to be rooting for a cold-blooded killer, and yet we really do NOT want to see his sweet family jeopardized, so we want him to survive.

The cast:
* Michael Shannon ("Premium Rush" and "Boardwalk Empire") is Richard Kuklinski, our contract killer; he is a limited man with limited options: no education, no charm and no skills (other than lethal ones), so he does the best he can with what he has. Shannon is one of the finest actors working today and this difficult role is worthy of him.
* Winona Ryder ("The Dilemma") is Deborah Pellicotti, the shy Catholic girl who wouldn't even do any heavy petting until she was married. Her devoted husband respected and adored her.
* Chris Evans ("What's Your Number?") is Mr. Freezy, whose ubiquitous ice cream truck moves invisibly through the city. This scraggly haired thug bears NO resemblance to "Captain America" let me tell you!
* Ray Liotta ("The Details") is Roy Demeo, a pornographer/crime lord who tested and then exploited the ice water which ran through Kuklinski's veins.

Because this takes place over a time span of nearly 20 years, you will get a kick out of the different cars, clothes, hair styles and mustaches that enjoyed passing popularity. Also, it's refreshing to see pagers and pay phones instead of the ever-present cell phones in today's world. If you are anything like me, you will appreciate "the rest of the story" which appears during the final credits. You can't like a film like this, but you can be impressed by it. Amazon will notify me when this is available.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Before seeing this movie I had read books on the Iceman and had already seen the documentaries on HBO, so when I saw this movie I knew pretty much what to expect from it. That being said, I really enjoyed the movie, however, what shook me the most was the performance by Michael Shannon. He blew me away and nailed his performance. The talent that came out of him was breathtaking. Honestly. I enjoyed seeing Wynona Ryder as his wife, she added such a sweet appearance to his home life. Ray Liotta fit perfectly. Chris Evans surprised my husband and I as we are watching the movie I am commenting how nasty (looking) his character is and my husband says he looks so familiar, then after the movie we realize it's Chris Evans (aka Captain American) and got such a kick out of it. It really was a great cast! I found the move to be very enjoyable and being based on a true story made me enjoy it even more.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2013
Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Stephen Dorff, and David Schwimmer like you've never seen him before, lead a first-rate cast in this dark attempt to bring the true story of Jersey City-bred mob contract killer Richard "Iceman" Kuklinski to the big screen and almost succeeds. Yeah, there's a few minor flaws here. The first mistake is one that I would consider to be debatable - using Anthony Bruno's book as a key reference instead of the late Philip Carlo's. IMO Carlo's was superior to the former. The second being a somewhat sketchy plot. For those who don't know, Kuklinski (Shannon) was a killer living in Bergen County and worked in the porn business before doing contract killings for Roy Demeo (Liotta) of a Brooklyn faction in the Gambino Family. An awesome cameo from Stephen Dorff as Richard's deranged child rapist/murderer brother Joe Kuklinski is spot-on, and Shannon's dead-on impersonation of Kuklinski's HBO interviews is chilling. Schwimmer is hilariously sleazy as Josh Rosenthal (character's real name was Chris Rosenberg, Demeo's "adopted son") Oh, and there's a terrific scene in a disco, involving John Ventimiglia (Artie Bucco from Sopranos), with Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' blasting in the backround, that you have to see to believe.

3½ stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2013
"Pray to God. Tell him to come down and stop me." This is the true story of a man named Richard Kuklinski (Shannon). He is a devoted husband and father who would do anything for him family. As far as his family knows he went from making Disney movies to currency exchange. He is a great provider and great person. The truth is something Richard hides from him family. He is one of the most notorious contract killer's in history and kills with no remorse or feeling toward his victim. He is the Iceman. I am a huge fan of mafia type movies. While this isn't really a mafia type movie it has the feel of a Goodfellas-esque movie. The movie is violent and shows killings but it's not really that graphic which helps the movie by not taking you out of the emotion by showing someones head explode. While I wouldn't call this a modern classic that should be watched over and over like Goodfellas or Scarface I do think that it very much worth watching and I did enjoy it. Shannon is great in this and he can really pull off the tough guy look like few can. Overall, a very good movie that also has a Sopranos-esque feel in the way that you find it hard to hate the bad guy. I give it a B.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 14, 2013
The Iceman follows notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men. Appearing to be living the American dream as a devoted husband and father. In reality Kuklinski was a ruthless killer-for-hire and his family doesn't even realize.

Michael Shannon is brilliant as Kuklinski and displays the character as the cold as ice real life man was. Shannon seems to have a knack at playing those type of characters with his natural scowl and hard look.

Ray Liotta also does a good job at playing the mob boss Kuklinski to do his dirty work.

The movie keeps a tough grip on your attention but the script at times seems a little cut down. I wished they could have gone more into the mob story than they did. But the movie does make Kuklinski character an interesting one with a veil of mystery. The movie even attempts to make him vaguely sympathetic but in reality like the movie Kuklinski is a nasty, creepy, violent piece of work and gets what he deserves.

I thought this movie was a worthwhile and entertaining one to watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2015
If you know little or nothing about Richard Kuklinski, you will give the film five stars. If you are a fan of Michael Shannon, as I am, you will give it ten stars. If you know a great deal about the background of Kuklinski, DeMeo, the Westies, crime in New Jersey and NYC in the 70s onward, you will give the film two stars. Take your pick.

This film is based on Anthony Bruno's book of the same name. However, the book spotlights Agent Dominick Polifrone, who eventually took 'The Iceman' down. In the film, he is relegated to the end of the movie. There are numerous one star reviews where the commenters talk about how disjointed the film is, and how they expected more from this incredible cast. Don't blame them, blame the writers. You can only use what's written on the page. None of the men responsible for this film are Italian, old enough to have lived through La Cosa Nostra in the 50s, 60s, etc. They counted on their audience knowing little, if nothing, about the subject matter.

There are so many scenes that leave you hanging waiting for what should be the outcome of a previous scene. At the end you know there has been a contract on Roy DeMeo but the movie ends before you learn what happened to him. He was murdered. Who murdered him? There are some reports that his own crew took him out. And there are some who think Kuklinski did it. That was an ending that would have been more fitting than the one you end up with. The ending is a real let down. This film couldda been a contendah. Michael Shannon could have won the Oscar for this portrayal. He totally turned himself into Kuklinski from his look to his walk to his voice to his mannerisms. Had he been alive, I am sure 'The Iceman' would have approved.

I would like to see another group of writers, directors, producers re-make this film. Scorsese would have turned this mother out. DePalma. There was a lot missing from the film. The wife, Barbara, was this docile, naïve, needy, clingy gal. There is only one scene of violence in the home. Kuklinski gets angry about something and trashes the kitchen. They end up in each other's arms, her crying and comforting him. In real life he broke her nose three times in their marriage, sending her to the hospital. This is not shown. It is a sugar-coated version of what actually happened. Perfect marriage. Perfect kids. This movie even eliminates his son. Only the two daughters are seen. What is the reason for that? Shoddy workmanship by the writers..

In his HBO interviews, Kuklinski talks about how he murdered cats and dogs when he was a youngster. Burned cats in the building incinerator, dropped dogs off the roof to their deaths. The only scene in the film that has a cat in it is at the end when he feeds the kitty what he thinks is arsenic-laced food. He is waiting for the fluff ball to keel over in his driveway. When it saunters off on to the lawn he looks at the cat and says, "Somethin' ain't right." Ya think? Then all hell breaks loose. In the meantime, we are waiting for the DeMeo hit! Never happens.

NOTE: I saw Michael Shannon in an off-off-Broadway play when he was an unknown actor here in NYC. A friend of mine who was in the play told me about this actor she was working with. She encouraged me to see the play and then let her know what I thought of him. He blew me out of my chair and out of the theater with his power. I was speechless by the time the curtain came down. Who is this guy?! People in the audience were all asking the same question as we walked out the door and on to a Greenwich Village street. I told my friend, this guy is on his way to a stellar career. His talent is astounding. It was no surprise to me when only a few years later Michael Shannon was front and center in television, films and the stage. He WAS Richard Kuklinski.

I regret he didn't have the powerful writing to accompany his powerful performance. I wish De Palma had written it, or Scorsese. It needed a strong Italian hand with a knowledge of the history of La Cosa Nostra first-hand. Hopefully, someone will make another film on this subject matter (Kuklinski) and will incorporate the entire story. Not just odds and ends from a hit man's life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2014
This movie is not one I would generally watch although sometimes I like to see a mafia-type film; "Good Fellas", "The Departed", "The Godfather", you get the idea. These are not the usual 'go to' movies for me, but most of them are my favorites, it just depends on the mood. Watching "The Iceman" sent chills down my spine and scared me to death more than anything else, actually because the cast was excellent. The acting of Michael Shannon was over-the-top brilliant, even more so as it is based on someone real. The movie itself is very dark, visually and also thematically. Just Frightening.

Ariel Vromen wrote the part then directed a perfectly steely and unfeeling Michael Shannon as "The Iceman", Richard Kuklinski. I was entirely enthralled with his flat-affect facial manner. No visible emotion on his face, one couldn't tell what was going to necessarily happen. He didn't seem to have any marketable skills for working, and didn't appear to care, he also lacked any social ability or prowess. The one thing that Kuklinski could do with precision, is taking a life without batting an eye. He works as a vicious contract killer, nobody is off limits. Kuklinski works for Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who is a criminal himself and higher on the food-chain, calling all the shots for him. The Iceman is involved in all types of felonious behavior, at first, before Demeo has him prove himself loyal for his use. He then starts his horrific murderous lifestyle.

When he begins dating his wife, Deborah Pellicotti (Wynona Ryder), it's curious to watch the off-key sweetness involved in their romance, if this is what one would call it. It is as if he is a completely different person with her. Deborah is an all around good girl type, so unlike him. The Catholic girl that will not be with a man before marriage. In contrast, Kuklinski is a hardhearted killer, cold and calculating, but then entirely respectful and loving with his girlfriend then wife; this, of course, is according to the movie. She appears to remain oblivious to her husband's job and what he is up to. The dichotomy of Kuklinski is altogether fascinating to view, it felt like I was watching two different people throughout the two decades this encompasses. The surroundings change from the story's beginning in 1964. The way people dress, what properties and housing looks like, the cars, right down to every detail has to move on with the times. I enjoyed these changes and also was intrigued with the subsequent dramatic legalities.

The movie is definitely not for everyone as it is extremely violent (I took a couple blanket dives). To really enjoy this type of movie would be a personal subjective choice according to your ability to tolerate violence. As for myself, watching this movie was so frightening, then again, it was impossible to look away from. I was told there are documentaries made previous to this which include interviews with Kuklinski, if you are so inclined. Possibly seeing them as a compliment to this movie could help explain the psychology involving such a protagonist. That is what would interest me the most. I don't understand what drives a person such as Richard Kuklinski; Why he did what he did. Did he have any respect or thoughts about a human life in any regard? I don't care whatsoever about him personally, I just wish to know why, and during this story this question is definitely asked of the viewer,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2013
The film is based on the true life story of hitman Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon). Richard starts out making copies of porno films for the mob when Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) recognizes his talent and turns him into a hitman. The story goes that his family didn't know anything about his hitman life, most likely made up by their attorney. It is said he killed over 100 men, although we only get the main hits. A montage of hits done to some good background music would have given us a better feel for his notoriety. One story is that Kuklinski killed Hoffa. The film avoids that controversy.

The film is gritty, but doesn't offer the action of a fictional production. Richard lived a quiet life and didn't flaunt his wealth, a simple requirement for someone to be a long term hitman. By the end of the film, you start to sympathize with the Iceman. On the negative side, I was really expecting accents from the folks in New Jersey. Winona Ryder sounded more like she was from Ohio, as did most of the cast.

Realistic film. Worth viewing as a history or as crime drama.

Parental Guide: F-bomb. Brief sex and nudity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2015
I found this film quite gripping but later I was disappointed when I learned how far it strayed from the known facts of Richard Kuklinski in an attempt to make him into at least a somewhat sympathetic character. That was totally uncalled for. The real Richard Kuklinski was a serial killer who killed numerous people for no good reason including many homeless people whom he killed for sport. Despite being presented as a loving family man he in fact physically abused his wife on numerous occasions, once stabbing her and on another occasion breaking her nose. Many of his victims were his business partners and in fact he commented that there was only one friend of his whom he didn't kill. Richard Kuklinski wasn't a loving family man who reluctantly murdered people who probably deserved it to support his family. He was a sadistic vicious paranoid serial killer who should not have been portrayed as anything other than the monster he absolutely was. Nevertheless I give it two stars because it was a well-written and acted, albeit fictional, film.
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