Film review: ‘The Iceman’


Michael Shannon (opposite Ray Liotta) plays real-life murderer Richard Kuklinski in “The Iceman.”
Millennium Entertainment

‘The Iceman’
Director: Ariel Vroman
Stars: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder
Rating: R
1 Globe

With his towering stature, crumpled mug and marbly voice, Michael Shannon has carved out a career playing ticking time bombs. The funniest moment of “The Iceman” arrives early, when his Richard Kuklniski tells Winona Ryder’s dim-bulb Deborah that he dubs Disney cartoons for a living. Of course we know better: he’s Michael Shannon.

Kuklinski is, in fact, the notorious Gambino family enforcer who claimed to have killed anywhere between 100 and 350 people (his accounts varied) before dying in prison in 2006. Until the law caught up with Kuklinski in 1986, friends and family had no clue that this devoted suburban dad with a penchant for cardigan sweaters held a day job as a homicidal psychopath.

This sordid little bit of true crime trivia gets a grungy big-screen treatment from director Ariel Vromen, who can’t seem to decide if he’s making an art-house character study or a grindhouse exploitation picture. The result is an ugly muddle, burying an absurdly overqualified cast beneath phony handlebar moustaches and the umpteenth iterations of New Jersey goombah stereotypes.

Ray Liotta cruises along through a fine bit of typecasting as Gambino associate Roy DeMeo, whose ice-cold ruthlessness falters whenever it comes to his screw-up lackey (an unrecognizable David Schwimmer.) Liotta can do this kind of coiled menace routine in his sleep, but it’s still a kick to watch. “The Iceman” suffers greatly when he abruptly exits the picture — just one of many subplots introduced then abandoned by Vroman and co-writer Morgan Land’s screenplay.

Strange celebrity cameos abound, feeling like favors from the filmmaker’s famous friends. James Franco drops by for five minutes just to get killed, in a bit of business that probably would have been chilling if his presence weren’t so distracting. The movie is hijacked for a spell by Chris Evans, delivering a gonzo turn as a zonked-out hitman who drives an ice cream truck in which he freezes corpses, allegedly to confuse the time of death in coroner’s reports.

Evans’ jabber-jaw Cheech and Chong shtick feels like such a relief because it’s terribly difficult to spend an entire movie with Shannon’s Kuklinski. Gruff, emotionally constipated and remote, he’s an alienating presence and Vroman’s film aspires to no insight besides the fact that he killed lots of people. The chintzy musical score and dingy cinematography give “The Iceman” a cheap, direct to video feel. It’s a low-rent movie with an expensive cast.


Teen in 'Jihad Jane' terror case to be…

A judge on Thursday is set to sentence a high school student who pleaded guilty to helping al Qaeda and working with the woman known as "Jihad Jane."


Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…


Philly gets Flyered up at Flyers pep rally…

On Wednesday, Monty Gee and a few hundred others joined members of the Flyers organization for the "Playoff Bandwagon Pep Rally."


Supporters say man accused of robbery was misidentified

A Liberian immigrant couple charged with extorting money from an elderly woman in March will be in court Thursday for a bail hearing, but supporters say it's a case of…


The Cannes Film Festival announces its 2014 lineup

The lineup of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival was announced this morning, promising the latest from a slew of usual (and some unusual) suspects.


‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'


Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.


'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…


2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version


Flyers, Rangers meet in playoffs for 11th time

The Flyers and Rangers will start a new chapter in a historic rivalry.


MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers…

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers and Braves right behind


Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.


This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…


This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…


Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.


5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.