THE ICEMAN Blu-ray Review

     September 19, 2013


Writer-director Ariel Vromen’s dramatic adaptation of the life of notorious hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski is now available on Blu-ray.  The Iceman stars Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) in the title role: a loving and devoted family man on the surface, in actuality a brutal and sadistic serial murderer with mafia ties.  Adapted from Anthony Bruno’s book The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, the film attempts to examine the duality of Kuklinski, but ultimately ends up being little more than a showcase for Shannon’s terrifying talent.

The Iceman also stars Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Stephen Dorff and James Franco.  The Blu-ray extras include the standard “making of” featurette and filmmaker interviews, but unfortunately do not include the oft-cited HBO documentary, The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman.  Hit the jump for my Blu-ray review.

the-iceman-michael-shannonThe Feature

Matt previously reviewed The Iceman during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival; you can read it here.  While Vromen does a fine job at portraying Kuklinski as a murderer who attempted to keep his family life in order, the only part of The Iceman that makes that relatively overdone mafioso plot interesting is Shannon’s performance.  That’s not to take away from the film’s co-stars; Liotta is in familiar territory here, while Evans and Schwimmer almost disappear into their respective roles.  Ryder also plays her part well as she transitions from a first date with Kuklinski, to the early struggles of their marriage and parenthood, through to their bitter end.

Although the performances make a valiant effort, there’s just not enough in the script to really sink their teeth into.  Though The Iceman does feature a number of actual events from Kuklinski’s life that are shocking and regrettable, it never reaches for anything more.  Even attempts to stack up Kuklinski’s body count (rumored to be in the 100s) is half-hearted.  Vromen may have been better served playing up the man’s psychological issues and evidence that he was only peripherally related to the mafia, identifying himself as a hitman in order to take credit for the kills that he did out of a sadistic enjoyment.  However, this is the film we got and, while it’s still entertaining, The Iceman didn’t quite reach its full potential.

iceman-winona-ryder-michael-shannonThe Extras

The Making of The Iceman (30 minutes)

  • Writer-Director Ariel Vromen – Talks about getting involved with the film in part because of the HBO documentary and how much he empathized with Kuklinski.  He also comments on working with Shannon, Evans, Franco and Ryder.
  • Producer Ehud Bleiberg – Comments on searching for the lead and landing their eventual cast, the Five Fs of Filmmaking, how historically accurate the film is and its balance between drama and action.
  • Michael Shannon – Talks about his thoughts on Kuklinski the man and the challenges of portraying him, plus changing his appearance throughout the film and working with Chris Evans.
  • Winona Ryder – Comments on working with Shannon, Vromen and the children, plus paying attention to the details in the production design.
  • Chris Evans – His thoughts on Mr. Softee (changed to Mr. Freezy in the film) and how he wanted him to look, working with Shannon, and achieving a balance between the reality of his character as a human being who is also despicable.

The Iceman: Behind the Scenes (10 minutes)

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary from Vromen, Bleiberg, Shannon, Ryder and Evans
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