There are actors who are so compelling, I can watch them rearrange their sock drawer for two hours and not be bored. Michael Shannon is one of them. Here’s an actor who caught my eye even in the bit parts he played as he was coming up in the Hollywood scene.
His brief appearance in Sidney Lumet’s final film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead proves that he can turn a minor role into an unforgettable one. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of Bug or Revolutionary Road, he was by far the best thing in both of them.
As we await his grand entrance into mainstream pop culture as General Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel, we’re graced with a rare leading role from The Shannon in The Iceman.
Don’t expect a tour-de-force like last year’s excellent Take Shelter here. This is another straightforward Goodfellas rip-off with a fairly dull and predictable screenplay and execution with the performances as the only bright spot.
Co-written and Directed by indie helmer Ariel Vromen as his first wide release, it follows the true story of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) who worked as a mob hit man for nearly twenty years while his wife (Winona Ryder) and children thought he was in currency exchange.
If for nothing else, the film serves as a public service announcement for the importance of spouses asking each other about their workday and not assuming everything’s hunky dory as long as the husband brings home the bacon.
The Iceman is very well shot with stark photography and Vromen goes through the chronological motions of such a true mob story, complete with predictable period music and pop-culture from the 60s and 70s. Yet there isn’t anything new or original here you haven’t seen in any of the endless mob movies that came out, curiously, after 1990. The pieces are all there but they don’t amount to much.
Most of the performances are to be praised and belong in a much better film. You know you’re in trouble if even Michael Shannon can’t save your movie. His trademark intensity and his genuine penchant for finding the fragile soul deep inside even the most despicable or disturbed character are all there, but the paint-by-numbers screenplay doesn’t give him much to work with, except for some scenes involving his crisis of faith.
Ray Liotta is typecast as always as the conflicted gangster with a hidden sweet spot but he’s better here in that role he took on many times over. Chris Evans gives it his all to shed his clean-cut Captain America reputation as a creepy and deranged hired killer who drives an ice cream truck, but Vromen can’t figure out what to do with his character.
The Iceman is quite a disappointment for a die hard Shannon fan such as myself. Of course he doesn’t let us down, but the crew around him does. What sucks is not that it’s a bad film, that would be more interesting, but that it’s mind-numbingly mediocre one.