Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to get quite interested in Mafia films having recently watched The Godfather and Goodfellas and as such when I heard about The Iceman, I was interested and when I saw that Michael Shannon was the lead, well that just confirmed to me that I had to see it. So how was it, pretty good if a bit problematic.
First things first, Michael Shannon is incredible in this film. It’s not up there with Take Shelter but I believe that his performance in Take Shelter is one of the greatest performances ever put on screen and it would be very hard for any actor to top that. He is still incredible in this though, mainly through his presence just invoking this intensity throughout the film that makes you really frightened of him and this, combined with just how calm and collected Shannon is throughout, makes him ideal casting for a Mafia hitman (I didn’t know about Richie Kuklinski before this so I don’t know how this fits with Kuklinski in real life). There is also this undercurrent of warmth throughout the film towards his family but Shannon never lets you forget that you should be afraid of this person and my heart was constantly pounding throughout the film in fear of what Shannon would do next. It is the best performance I’ve seen this year from a person not named Daniel Day-Lewis.
The rest of the cast though are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand there are excellent performances from Chris Evans going really against type as a hitman/ice-cream man combo who looks like he just smoked about 10 pounds of weed and from Ray Liotta, reminding me of just how good he was in Goodfellas with this really threatening but also quite sympathetic character. Then there are the pretty bland performances like that of Winona Ryder who doesn’t really get a whole lot to do until the last act of the film and by then it’s too late. Then there are the pretty out of place cameos from James Franco and David Schwimmer. Franco’s cameo fares the worst though as it feels like he was just put in because he was James Franco while Schwimmer’s character does do a lot more in terms of the story.
There is also a bit of unevenness with the plot structure in that some scenes feel like they are really important mixed up with ones that don’t feel as important combined with scenes that go on too long (like the dinner scene) and others that I wanted to be longer (like Shannon flipping out in the car). There is also this weird thing in which it starts out with dates and locations at the bottom of the screen to let you know where you are in the story but then drops it about halfway through and goes along the style of Goodfellas with the music, fashion and different wigs worn by the characters letting the audience know what time period it is. Now one of the other system can work but not both and that’s something the makers didn’t seem to realize.
On a technical side, the film is shot really well with some shots in the film invoking a bit of Kubrick and the directors makes you really feel everything that Shannon does throughout the film. This method also helps show the sheer brutality of the film with there being no punches pulled in terms of the brutality of what Shannon does be it shooting people, slicing their throats or strangling them and this helps show just how wrong his actions are and lets you know to fear him throughout the film through a mixture of this great direction and Shannon’s incredible performance.
Overall, The Iceman is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some major problems in terms of story structure but the film is worth seeing just for the incredible performance by Michael Shannon.
My Rating: 3.5/5