Michael Shannon cut a forlorn figure emerging after the screening, keeping his head down for the entire Q&A, not willing to show his eyes. Maybe he was just suffering from extreme jet lag but he seem like a man I’d want to leave alone. It was a mesmerising discussion which offered little relief from the dark intensity of the man projected on screen minutes earlier. When asked if he’d ever like to play less intense roles, like a romantic comedy, he cut the question short: “I just want to act”.
Roles cannot possibly be more intense than the one he played so brilliantly in 2010’s psychological apocalyptic thriller Take Shelter, but when you sign on for a role playing infamous contract killer Richard Kuklinski you’re doing your best to keep up. The Iceman is a film as cold as its title suggests. Shannon commented that part of the reason he’s not necessarily drawn to comedy is because most films have a comedic element, citing that it can even be found here. Perhaps he has a strange sense of humour but I could barely see the lighter side. The film charts Kuklinski’s life as a family man and mafia hitman. It focuses on how he evaded the police for so long – using cyanide to kill his victims, freezing them to make it more difficult for police to detect the time of death. It’s sinister and malevolent stuff but there’s not enough about his family life or what’s going on inside his head which creates a numbness surrounding around the film. How did he keep his private and public personalities separate? In reality, Kuklinski held onto his wife using fear and it seems unfortunate that the film chooses to not really do a lot with the family angle when that’s such an interesting and personal part of the story beyond the ruthless killings, even if the acting and mood of the film is unrelentingly intimidating and murky.
There are plenty of solid (and often unrecognisable) supporting roles from the likes of Ray Liotta, Chris Evans (who plays a rival killer who geeks out on how to freeze victims), James Franco and even David Schwimmer. When Shannon was questioned about working with the latter on such a project, unimpressed and nonplussed he shrugged: “yeah well, I guess he just wants people to stop seeing him as that guy from that thing he was in”. No Hollywood pandering or sugarcoating here. The Iceman is made up of numerous, impressive scenes which stands out, with a glaring Shannon at the forefront but its scenes don’t quite find the coherence needed in an attempt to answer the real question of what makes its lead such a monster.
Review by David Rank
The Iceman is out on 5th June in the UK. Running time 105 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).