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The Iceman

2013 (Ariel Vromen) 14A, 106 minutes

Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta

Where “The Sopranos” and its close cinematic equivalent, “Goodfellas,” are warmblooded explorations of violent men bonding, “The Iceman,” directed by Ariel Vromen from a screenplay he wrote with Morgan Land, is as cold as the nickname of its title character. Its story is based on Anthony Bruno’s novel, “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer".

In “The Iceman” Michael Shannon’s mesmerizing portrayal of Richard Kuklinski, a notorious contract killer, has the paradoxical quality, peculiar to many great screen performances, of being unreadable and transparent. You can’t really see through Richard, whose pale-blue eyes take in the world from a face as expressionless as a sphinx. But in its tiniest tremors you can sense explosive forces roiling below the mask and grasp the duality with a visceral feeling of dread. It is a performance that has the same life-or-death gravity Mr. Shannon brought to the role of a man driven half-mad by apocalyptic portents in “Take Shelter.”

Richard operates in the treacherous milieu of Tony Soprano, but in an earlier era: the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. He is a seething loner, and although not as bright, sociable or complicated as James Gandolfini’s Tony, the two have one crucial similarity: Both are fiercely devoted family men who go to great lengths to shield their loved ones from the dirty reality of their work. 

Stephen Holden, The New York Times

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