Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
 
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This is a chilling account of someone who successfully lives a double life for many years.  A cold-blooded contract killer for crime families, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) is passionately devoted to his own family.  Interestingly, he has standards, and refuses to kill a young woman near the age of one of his daughters, which is the beginning of the end for him because it is defiant of his boss Roy (Ray Liotta).  Shannon performs the role of the killer at his usual superior level.  His portrayal evokes a sharp-edged image of a man loaded with contradictions.  There is one brief snapshot of him as a child that provides some explanation as to how he gets to where he is, along with a few comments from his imprisoned brother.  Ariel Vromen, the co-writer/director, is clever in inserting these brief scenes as a succinct picture of his background to make sense of his character.  In fact, the overall direction in Vromen’s very competent hands is impressive, since he seems to be in the early stage of his directing career.
            The movie flows well, starting when Richard is just getting acquainted with his wife Deborah (Wynona Ryder), having a family, achieving success in his “business”, but making some critical errors, and then ending with his arrest and conviction.  The opening and closing shots of the film, which are close-ups of his face as he is being interviewed following his conviction, are striking.  They look like a Chuck Close portrait, and what he says captures both sides of his personality.
            The other actors, such as Wynona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, and David Schwimmer provide excellent back-up.  Ryder is great as a loving, supportive wife who is not too curious about what her husband does, and Liotta’s steely blue eyes and deportment are as threatening as always.  Evans and Schwimmer come across well as thugs, even though they’re used to playing the good guys.
            The actual Richard Kuklinski did grow up in a brutal family.  His father abused one child to his death, and the mother beat the children with broomsticks on the one hand, and on the other, made sure they had strict Catholic training.  He began torturing animals as a child, and claimed to have killed his first victim at age 13.  The movie version of Richard—as stark as it is—is probably a glossier picture than his life actually was.
            I found the film, based on Anthony Bruno’s book, The Iceman:  The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, to be very well done, instructive, and even entertaining at times.                                    Grade:  A


 



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