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Having read Philip Carlo's biography of Richard Kuklinski 'The Ice Man:
Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer', I can say that Ariel Vromen's
big screen adaptation 'The Iceman' is a big disappointment. While the
author had a habit of repeating himself and some of Richard's
recollections seemed rather dubious in places, Carlo's lengthy book was
an engrossing read, I enjoyed it very much.
The problem with the film is that it's awfully constructed; it's all so
terribly rushed. It fails to develop both the narrative and
subsequently the character of Richard Kuklinski, glossing over almost
everything that made the book such an interesting read. I appreciate
that cramming one's life story into a screenplay can be a difficult
task, however there are major flaws in the script that could have
easily been avoided the screenplay should've been scrapped and
His unspeakably awful childhood, for instance, is covered with an
utterly perfunctory flashback scene that lasts for all of about 15
seconds. This is a fatal mistake, because it was his harrowing
formative years that shaped Richard.
Stanley Kuklinski, his deeply cruel father, conditioned his son with
the daily violence he inflicted upon his whole family. After Stanley
dealt Richard's brother Florian a particularly malicious beating, he
died from his injuries; the police were told that he fell down a flight
of stairs. Richard's mother was also a callous, unpleasant person;
despite her zealous religious values she had no qualms about battering
her children with a broom handle. Even when Richard sought solitude in
the placidity of his local church as an altar boy, nuns would punish
him by splitting the skin on his knuckles with the edge of a metal
ruler. All of the relentless anguish was compounded by his family's
When 13-year-old Richard also became the victims of local bullies, it
all became too much for him he beat one of them to death with a pole
and discarded his body with brutal efficiency. Kuklinski recalled that
it was at this moment that he discovered 'it was better to give than
receive'. The passages of Carlo's book that cover his youth make for
appalling reading; unfortunately none of this power is to be found in
Ariel Vromen's rather boring adaptation.
Lacking also are the details of Kuklinski's career. The book recalls
Kuklinski's methods of murder, the way he stalked his prey and his
utter indifference towards his victims' suffering. Very little of this
was explored in the film, we get little more than a brief montage of
random people being blown away it's all so damn rushed and
disorganised. Considering what a desperately violent individual
Kuklinski was, 'The Iceman' is a rather neutered production. It has
none of the visceral qualities that shock you like in 'The Godfather'
and 'Goodfellas', mob films that draw you into their brutal world where
death is merely 'business'.
Not only is the narrative woefully underdeveloped but it's also sheer
fiction in many instances. Despite having great dramatic material to
work with, Ariel Vromen and Morgan Land decided that their own version
of events were better. Even the more faithful scenes have been tweaked
and messed about with for no discernible reason. For example, Roy DeMeo
didn't introduce Kuklinski to contract killing, he had already had a
career with the DeCavalcante New Jersey crime family and had killed
scores of people both professionally and privately. It also forgets to
depict the savage beatings Richard used to give his wife Barbara and
the pernicious effect it had on the family dynamic.
As you have probably heard, Michael Shannon is the highlight of the
film. Much like the real man, he has a steely reserve and an explosive
temper; he also resembles him in both appearance and speech. However,
despite his best efforts, Shannon is completely let down by the script.
While Shannon is indeed cold and calculated, the film fails to truly
capture Kuklinski's aura of menace and particularly his notoriety in
While the performances are fine, 'The Iceman' is quite frankly ruined
by total underdevelopment. If I had entered the film with no knowledge
of the man, I would have found it a boring, mediocre mob film. But
knowing the depth and drama of this tragic figure means that 'The
Iceman' is a complete misfire that deserves much more, ideally a
remake. The only thing that it successfully achieved was the
credibility of its period styling.
Tags for The Iceman Full Movie
, Michael Shannon
, Ray Liotta
, Winona Ryder
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