Opportunity makes the man – ★★★½
Michael Shannon continues his rise to fame in this excellent character driven study of a sociopath which reminds us of Goodfellas but without the glitz and glamour.
Shannon plays Richard Kuklinski, a hardworking porn dubber who just wants to make a living and look after his wife and children. Mob boss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) puts him out of business leaving him no choice but to become his personal hit-man. Richard doesn’t have to think that long and happily complies as he’ll finally be able to provide for his family. What follows is a montage of Richard’s early kills that jars and feels out of place with the rest of the film. Thankfully this is short-lived and we can focus on the workings of Richard; his dual life, his ease at killing and his total devotion to his family.Winona Ryder plays his wife and does a stellar job playing the dutiful partner while being completely clueless to the life her husband leads. It is great to see her with a more prominent role than her recent cameos and we can see why we fell in love with her all those years ago. Cameos are the order of the day for the majority of the other actors; James Franco, Stephen Dorff, David Schwimmer and Chris Evans all crop up with the later two being substantial characters.
The whole piece rests on Shannon’s capable shoulders. We see the classic gangster tale of everything being too good to be true with Shannon making money hand over fist, only for his entire world to slowly start coming apart. Every time he appears on screen you can feel the intricate workings of a grandfather clock going on beyond his eyes all the while he simply stares or raises an eyebrow. The springs become more tightly wound as the film progresses, leaving him struggling to cope with holding all the strands together.
Where Goodfellas is certainly the better film it glamourised gangsters and the life they lead, and while it still all ended in tears or death for most of the stars there was a small part of you that wouldn’t have minded being a gangster for even a little bit. The Iceman paints a much bleaker picture most likely as Richard isn’t as lovable or roguish as Ray Liotta’s Henry but it somehow seems more genuine even though both are based on real life events.
Shannon’s performance aside there isn’t much in the film to keep you gripped and the expected tension from Ray Liotta being in your picture never quite delivers. Ariel Vromen’s direction is pretty paint by numbers and never dazzles. While it won’t set the world on fire it is the perfect stepping stone for Shannon on his road to world domination.
USA / Directed By: Ariel Vromen / Written By: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen / Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, James Franco / 105min / Crime, Drama / Release: 7 June 2013 (Ireland, UK), 3 May 2013 (USA, Canada)