Director Ariel Vroman plunges the world of contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon, doing his best "seething under the surface" thing) into swatches of murk and chrome like daytime light, so that even when the sun’s out everything looks flat and gloomy. In contrast, he creates little islands of illumination that stand out with a truly lovely light.
If this is a visual metaphor for Kuklinski, a real mob killer who is suspected of having killed more than a hundred people, then it works well with the substance of Vroman’s screenplay, co-written with Morgan Land. Kuklinski seems unflappable, until he doesn’t -- and when he doesn’t, he’s volcanic. Wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) has no clue what he does for a living; even at the start, when they’re only dating, he feeds her a story about working on Walt Disney movies. (In truth, he’s employed in a lab that produced prints of porno films.)
Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) draws the murderously ill-tempered Kuklinski into what was, arguably, his life’s work; whether gazing down at his next victim or staring into the barrel of a gun himself, Kuklinski is inscrutable. In one scene, he offers a sobbing, praying victim (played by James Franco in a role that amounts to little more than a cameo) a few extra minutes, to test whether his entreaties to God will actually result in divine intervention. But it’s when Kuklinski partners with the equally fearless "Mr. Freezy" (Chris Evans), a killer who puts his victims on ice before dumping their bodies to stymie the cops, that the nickname really starts to stick.
The Blu-ray release of "The Iceman" is a must for fans of Shannon, Evans, and / or Liotta (whose casting, it must be said, sort of feels like a bid to import some "Goodfellas" creed to this movie). Fans of the mob will revel in the film’s cool, harsh palette and stone-faced violence. At the end of the day, however, this film feels warmed over and trite -- less inspired than riddled with the tropes of its genre.
The extras add no real value. There are only two special features, and they both feel tossed off, as though someone did them in a rush upon realizing that they were going to need something for the eventual home release platforms. "Behind the Scenes of The Iceman" is nothing more than a series of choppily edited interviews with Shannon, Ryder, Evans, Vroman, and producer Ehud Bleiberg. (The interviews are so off the cuff that Bleiberg is seemingly sitting in a corridor for his on-camera chat; there’s a water fountain behind him.) The interviewees share some interesting tidbits, but this is the sort of thing that generally works better as an audio commentary track.
"The Making of The Iceman" is more of the same (literally: same interviewees, same settings), plus clips from the movie. These extras are so lame that even the mandatory enthusiasm from those involved feels half-hearted.