What more could we possibly learn about hitmen? It’s a profession egregiously over-represented on the big screen, considering its microscopic per capita employment level. And it’s a job that most movies, from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to Pulp Fiction to In Bruges, mine for excitement, with the hitman himself as the embodiment of cool. Rarely does the portrayal of paid killers onscreen offer much resembling critical perspective.
That’s what makes Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman so exciting. It actually does offer up perspective, a moral point of view. The Israeli-born director's third feature stars Michael Shannon as the real-life Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer who murdered over 100 people from 1964-1986. At first glance, it may feel like Breaking Bad — the story of an ordinary schlub with a particular set of skills who enters into a criminal enterprise to provide for his family. But unlike Breaking Bad, which has it both ways by encouraging our cathartic identification with Walter White while half-heartedly condemning his crimes (hence why people like Walter more than suffering wife Skyler), The Iceman neither glamorizes nor identifies with its subject. One horrifying moment when Kuklinski’s partner in crime (Chris Evans) suggests that they kill each other’s families, as the cops are closing in, shows how down and dirty, uncool and unfunny, how thoroughly banal both these guys, Kuklinski included, really are. The Iceman is a slightly detached, clinical case-study of pathology, with Michael Shannon’s Kuklinski as its stone-faced test subject.
If it wasn’t already clear that Shannon is one of the finest actors on the planet, based on his towering perforamnces in Revolutionary Road, Shotgun Stories, and Take Shelter, The Iceman will unfog your glasses. Vromen’s film is Shannon’s De Niro-in-Raging Bull moment. He and his director have found a way to translate a true-crime story into a deconstruction of masculinity. The reptilian, tough-guy reserve Kuklinski projects to be taken seriously as a manly man to his wife (Winona Ryder), daughters, and friends — the emotional constipation that’s transformed his face into a craggy mask — aligns perfectly with the job requirements of being a killer: stereotypical masculine gender identity revealed to be akin to sociopathy and conducive to criminality. The most terrifying scene from any movie this year occurs when Kuklinski, in a fit of road rage, chases at high speed after a rude motorist who insulted his wife and daughters….while his wife and daughters are screaming terrified in the car. He’s defending their honor at the same time he’s recklessly endangering them.
Unfortunately, not much else surrounding Shannon in The Iceman is on par with Raging Bull. Instead of Joe Pesci, we have David Schwimmer as a mustachioed thug. Dispiritingly, Ray Liotta, as Kuklinski’s mobster employer, has decided these days to play only one kind of clench-jawed heavy from film-to-film. And Vromen has an affinity for the brown, tan, and orange hues in fashion and interior design of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but doesn’t find any way less clichéd to convey the passage of time than to continually alter Shannon’s facial hair or show the progression of the then still-under-construction World Trade Center towers.
Robert Davi as a pock-marked Don is arrestingly ruthless, however. James Franco leaves an impact as a pornographer Kuklinski forces to pray for deliverance from God, right before killing him. And Winona Ryder, soft, sincere, and incredibly vulnerable has given us her best performance in years. Her beautiful fragility opposite Shannon’s unwavering stolidness is what reveals Vromen’s ambition here to be a damning critique of gender roles and how, to some degree, we all perform them.
What do you think? Tell Christian Blauvelt directly on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes !
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When you're trying to prove yourself to be one tough cookie in the 70s, you have two options: murder people or grow a mustache so thick and unctuous that it could be mistaken for a real, live pornstache. Welcome to The Iceman! And while Zamboni drivers everywhere may mistake this for the story of their fearless leader/creator Frank Zamboni (whose birthday is today, coincidentally!), this is one film where nothing is kept on ice. Unless by "ice" you mean "murder" because in that case, there is a lot of murder.
It's murder and follicle foibles that make up the majority of The Iceman's trailer — featuring the acting (and hair work) of Michael Shannon, Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, James Franco, and the most committed coiffure of all, Chris Evans. Seriously — look at that man's luscious locks! (OK, so maybe they're less-than-luscious. Maybe they're more closely resembling a rats' nest. But still!) If there was ever a prize for Method Hair-Growing, Evans would have that s**t on lock. His character looks like the type who would ask ladies to take a ride on his mutton chops. Women probably obliged by the hundreds (hey, this movie takes place in a weird, mixed-up, confusing time in personal hygiene. It was a different time, you guys. A very different time). Captain America, are you in there?
The thriller stars Shannon as real-life hitman Richard Kuklinski, who becomes a mob killer-for-fire in order to support his all-too-oblivious family. Kuklinski's work in the murdering-people-for-money business was especially well-known: he offed (yes, offed) over 100 men before his capture in 1986. Check out the full trailer, below:
What do you think of The Iceman? Excited for the film? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: Millennium Films]
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On September 6 the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival kicks off, bringing with it a bevy of A-list star power and some of this year's biggest, buzziest movies, not to mention early Oscar contenders. The festival, now in its 37th year, will present 372 films over the span of just 11 days. So which films playing at the world's second most prominent festival (right behind the incomparable Cannes) should movie buffs be paying closest attention to? We've narrowed them down: Argo: Ben Affleck's movie about the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis has taken off first in the Oscar race. The film by Affleck, who is pulling double duty once again as star and director, already earned raves at the Telluride Film Festival, making TIFF audiences even more eager to see what the ensemble drama has in store. (In addition to Affleck, Argo stars Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, and Alan Arkin). A good showing at TIFF could give Argo an even bigger boost. Over the past few years, Best Picture winners The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, and Slumdog Millionaire all picked up steam in the Oscar race after a warm reception at TIFF. To The Wonder: Affleck is part of not one, but two of this year's can't miss films at TIFF. The actor stars alongside Rachel McAdams (also pulling a TIFF double-header with Brian De Palma's Passion) and Javier Bardem in the drama about a man who returns to his hometown after his failed marriage to a European woman. But it's not the marquee stars that are drawing attention to the project, but its elusive Oscar nominated director Terrence Malick. His sixth feature comes just one short year after his masterpiece Tree of Life was released, making it the shortest amount of time Malick fans have ever had to wait for one of his films. So you'd better believe this will be one hot ticket at TIFF. The Master: Paul Thomas Anderson, another brilliant filmmaker whose projects are few and far between, but always worth the wait (it's been five long years since the glorious There Will Be Blood) also has a film at this year's TIFF and, boy, does it look like a total knockout. (We've had chills just watching the trailers and clips). PTA's already intriguing The Master which is totally not about Scientology stars Philip Seymour Hoffman (also starring in buzzy TIFF feature A Late Quartet) as a the leader of a religion that is not Scientology. Did we mention it's not about Scientology? No matter, this one is not to be missed. Seven Psychopaths: Martin McDonagh's first full length feature, 2008's bloody good black dramedy In Bruges was not only a critical darling (it earned McDonagh an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Colin Farrell a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical) but quickly earned status as a cult favorite. His follow-up Seven Psychopaths — stars Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Gabouey Sidibe and re-teams him with Farrell — is a dark comedy about a dognapping scheme gone awry in Los Angeles. Hey, at least they're not in f***ing Bruges. Cloud Atlas: One of this year's most anticipated films has fans of David Mitchell's beloved book of the same name waiting with baited breath. How will The Matrix masters The Wachowskis possibly be able to pull off the multi-layered, centuries-spanning tale for the big screen? The ambitious undertaking stars Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, and Hugo Weaving, among others. Eager moviegoers will find out at TIFF if the 164 minute running time (!) can match the intensity of the five minute-long trailer. The Silver Linings Playbook: No matter what there is to make of David O. Russell's off-screen antics, he has undeniably capture the attention and admiration of movie buffs and critics alike with works like Three Kings, The Fighter, and I Heart Huckabees. The Oscar-nominated writer/director's latest, Silver Linings Playbook, stars hot commodities Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as two people grappling with mental health issues. The quirky dramedy could be the indie breakout of the fest. The Iceman: Ariel Vroman's The Iceman — pun completely intended — looks downright chilling. Based on the haunting true story of notorious hitman Richard Kuklinski, the film stars an Oscar-primed Michael Shannon (as Kuklinski), an unrecognizable Chris Evans, and an eclectic supporting cast that includes James Franco, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, and Stephen Dorff. The Iceman cometh to TIFF and festival attendees would be wise to goeth. The Impossible: While The Impossible isn't the only natural disaster film to play at TIFF (Aftershock does as well) nor is it the first to broach trying to capture the horrors of the devastating 2004 earthquake and tsunami (a story line Clint Eastwood's Hereafter dealt with the tragedy) but Juan Antonio Bayona's telling of an amazing true life story of a family during the disaster won't be one to miss. Starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, The Impossible will be a certified tearjerker that could very well capture the attention of the Academy as its starts its journey on the festival circuit. The Perks of Being a Wallflower: No, it may not be an Oscar contender like some of the other TIFF features, but like fellow TIFF entry On the Road, Perks is a beloved novel finally being brought to the big screen. With young talent like Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson (in her first post-Harry Potter effort) on board, positive early buzz on Perks could turn the adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's book into a sleeper hit. Plus, with all the heavy fare playing at this year's fest, Perks could be a welcome, and much-needed, break for moviegoers. Much Ado About Nothing: We know, we know, haven't we seen this before? Sure, Shakespeare's classic has gotten the big screen treatment before, but never one that's a modern retelling from none other than Joss Whedon. Whedon, who is already having a banner year with The Avengers, is using some of the best actors from his arsenal of classics (including the likes of Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, and Clark Gregg) for the black and white flick. Movie geeks — assemble! Honorable mentions: Be sure to keep an eye out for some of these year's other must-see TIFF films including Cannes' Palme d'Or winner Amour; early Best Actor contenders like John Hawkes in The Sessions and Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt; early Best Actress contenders Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina; Lee Daniels' foray into noir, The Paperboy (yes, that one with Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron); the Blue Valentine reunion of Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance in The Place Beyond the Pines; David Ayers' latest cop flick End of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal; West of Memphis, the latest documentary on the always compelling West Memphis 3 case; and the film kicking off the fest, the mind-bending Blade Runner homage, Looper starring — who else? — Joseph Gordon-Levitt. [Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]More: Toronto Film Festival 2012: 'On the Road', Michael Jackson Documentary 'Bad 25' Added to Lineup Toronto Film Festival 2012: Films From Affleck, Redford, Malick Among the Lineup 'Cloud Atlas' Collides Past, Present & Future in an Epic Six Minutes — TRAILER
The Dark Knight actress was initially due to portray the wife of the infamous Mafia contract killer opposite Michael Shannon, but Gyllenhaal, who announced her second pregnancy last month (Nov11), has since walked away from the role and Ryder has been cast in her place, according to Deadline.com.
It's the second major casting revamp in recent weeks - James Franco was previously tapped to star as The Iceman's mentor, but the 127 Hours actor quit the project due to contractual issues.
Franco's role has since been filled by Captain America actor Chris Evans.
Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer are also attached to the movie, which is set for release in 2013.
Winona Ryder has signed up for the true-story indie The Iceman, in which she'll play contract killer Richard Kuklinski's unwitting wife, Deborah.
Michael Shannon is already attached to star as Kuklinski -- aka the Iceman -- who led a somewhat normal family life for years while murdering people left and right for the mafia on the side. Chris Evans will play Kuklinski's mentor in the film, from Israeli director Ariel Vroman.
Ryder last starred in January's The Dilemma and has a voice role coming up in Tim Burton's animated movie Frankenweenie, out Oct. 5, 2012.
Click on the image below to see more photos of Winona Ryder!
Milk star Franco pulled out of The Iceman due to a disagreement over "key contractual issues", but now Evans has stepped in to take the role as Kuklinski's mentor.
Kuklinski, to be portrayed by Michael Shannon, was a contract killer for the Mafia.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer have also signed on for the film, which is set for a theatrical release in 2013.