Art of the Real 728x90 Film Comment Film Society of Lincoln Center

Short Takes: The Iceman

By Chris Chang

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(Ariel Vromen, U.S., 2012)

The Iceman Ariel Vroman

How bad can a bad hair day get? Let me count the ways. 1) Michael Shannon, playing real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski, is already well known for exuding a certain stubbly menace. For this particular outing, there’s something about the scenes in which he sports a soul patch that are especially discomfiting. 2) David Schwimmer (unrecognizable), one of the many fascinatingly grotesque supporting cast members (Stephen Dorff, James Franco, and others), sports a truly ridiculous handlebar mustache, replete with an inverted Hitler gap. 3) Chris Evans (also unrecognizable, and with handlebar), partner-in-crime to Kuklinski and driver of the ice cream truck that’s perfect for transporting dead bodies, is topped off with an oily-hippie dirt-bag mop. Yum.

By contrast, and setting up some sort of clean-shaven opposition, is a badass Ray Liotta as the Iceman’s gangster boss, and a facial-hair-free Winona Ryder, the infinitely devoted/oblivious wife. Kuklinski’s a natural-born killer, with reportedly 100-plus victims, but he’s pretty much a puppy dog when it comes to the old lady and the kids.

Director Ariel Vromen doesn’t do so much in terms of the story (which spans 20 years, with corresponding hair fluctuations), but he seems to know his violence, and he’s a true artiste when it comes to the queasy polyester ambience that holds this thing together. No doubt lensman Bobby Bukowski had a lot to do with it.