Tag Archives: assassin

The Iceman – Review

15 Aug

Between the 1960s and the early 1980s, Richard Kuklinski murdered over 100 people as a hitman working for various mob families. Since his arrest in 1986, there has been a biography written about him and also an HBO documentary that features and interview with the Iceman, himself, from 1992. With all of this information already out there, and the fact that it was a huge media sensation, it seems only right to have a movie made after the guy. We got this movie in 2013 with Ariel Vroman’s The Iceman. While this movie does have a lot going for it, like the title performance, there’s a lot to this movie that just falls short which makes it not achieve a place a small gangster classic.

The-Iceman-Poster

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) is a violent and unpredictable man, but he finds joy when he marries his girlfriend, Deborah (Winona Ryder). After losing his job dubbing bootleg porn for the mafia, he is hired by mob boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) to act as an enforcer and hit man. This job forces Kuklinski to channel the rage and violence that he has hidden away from his family in order to get the job done, and it turns out that he’s very good at what he does. As the years go by and the amount of bodies becomes ridiculous, Richard finds himself in a position where he could either lose the way to provide for his family or team up with another mafia hit man, Robert Pronge (Chris Evans). Whatever his choice may be, the consequences could be big enough to tear his entire world apart.

I have to be honest here. I never heard of Richard Kuklinski before this movie, but his story really is an interesting one. With a career that spanned over two decades that was filled with violence and malice, you’d think it would be enough to make a great gangster film. Well, yeah it is, but the screenplay to The Iceman keeps it from ever really achieving that greatness. Since there is so much to work with, you’d think that this would be a pretty long movie, but it’s actually under two hours. How is that possible? There is way too much to cover for it to be that short. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of scenes that had the potential to be awesome and memorable, but is glazed over in a matter of seconds. The best part of this movie is a montage when it should have been stretched out to build character and create suspense. Oh well…

the-iceman

Despite the screenplay being less than spectacular, there’s still something that makes The Iceman well worth seeing. That is Michael Shannon’s fantastic performance. I’ve yet to see Michael Shannon give a less than perfect performance, be it as General Zod in Man of Steel, Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire, or even his small role as Petie in Cecil B. Demented. While some of the stuff he’s in may be awful (I’m looking at you Pearl Harbor and Jonah Hex), Shannon is never the weak link. In the role of Richard Kuklinski, he is both demonic and loving, good and evil. He is a family man and also a cold blooded killer. This is the kind of stuff that makes his character, and many other characters in cinema, so interesting and he pulls it off with such menace, it’s hard not to be terrified of him.

It’s also easy to get lost in the production design. I recently reviewed Parkland, and I talked about how well the designers pulled off making everything look and sound like 1963. I have the same thing to say about The Iceman, except that it showcases design from the 1960s through the 1980s. It really puts you into the scene, but unfortunately there is plenty to take you out of the scenes. I’ve heard complaints that a lot of the dialogue is stereotypical gangster lines, but that wasn’t the issue with me. Going back to what I said before, the pacing of this movie is too sporadic and things just seem to happen too quickly. The choppiness of the film’s plot is enough to take you out of what’s happening onscreen and start thinking about what could have been done to make the movie better.

What makes me so disappointed is that The Iceman had a lot of potential to be a great gangster film, but it only is a pretty good gangster film. Michael Shannon’s performance as Kuklinski is enough to make this movie worth watch, but there’s too much that’s lacking. While I didn’t expect it to have the size or scope of a movie by Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola, it would have been nice to see a little bit more work done with the screenplay. The bottom line is that The Iceman is a good movie, but is sorely lacking.

Advertisements

Parkland – Review

10 Aug

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Since then, the story has been told in many different films and documentaries that look at the actual even, but also the load of conspiracies that come along with it. The most notable film being Oliver Stone’s JFK. Today, however, I’m going to be looking at a lesser known film about the assassination, Parkland. While this certainly isn’t what you would call an exciting movie, I was pleased to find out that it was very accurate to the real events and is something of a hidden and under appreciated gem.

Parkland_poster

Parkland doesn’t so much tell the story of JFK’s assassination, but more so the events that happen in the 24 hours that follow. Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and the nurses of Parkland Hospital are forced into the extreme position of being the staff to operate on Kennedy mere minutes after being shot. Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who recorded the famous footage, along with Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) rush to get the film developed to see if there could be any clues that were captured. FBI Agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) has to deal with the fact that Oswald visited his office just days before the assassination. Finally, Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) has to come to terms with the fact that his life will never be the same and his family may never recover from the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong).

It really sucks when I watch a movie based on an actual historic event, and then I come to realize that it was all pretty much fictionalized. What would be the point of even watching it if you aren’t going to get at least a semi accurate experience. That’s the main reason why I was so into The Baader Meinhof Complex. It told about an event in history with great detail and accuracy. This is the first film since then that I felt showed a genuine representation of history. So yes, that means that it isn’t pulse pounding suspense or high octane action. It is, however, an intriguing look at how something like that can have such huge effects on the people surrounding it.

963482463001_2656625940001_video-still-for-video-2656629215001

 

Being a movie that takes place in 1963, it’s very important that it looks, sounds, and feels like 1963. Luckily, the production design of this movie is fantastic and bolsters everything with an almost eerie sense of reality. The clothing is all what you would picture people to be wearing, but there’s smaller things that really build the atmosphere more than anything else. Throughout Parkland, you both hear and see actual radio and television news broadcasts that pretty much started the notion of 24 hour news. This is like the cherry on top of the sundae, and really made me feel like I was in the middle of the chaos.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to talk about the actors and writer/director Peter Landesman. The screenplay sprinkles moments of unflinchingly real humanity throughout the film, even if they’re just small acts of kindness or hostility. It’s moments like these that real bring the film to life, and make it one of the more memorable pieces of historic film making. Landesman doesn’t try to make anything feel bigger or smaller than it actually is, and the cast back him on that. The performances, especially by Paul Giamatti (as usual), Zac Efron, and James Badge Dale, all stand out as exemplary.

Parkland is a film that doesn’t get nearly the credit that it deserves. I’ve seen a lot of critics call it unorganized, slow, and say that the narrative doesn’t flow. Well, did all of the events flow in real life after JFK’s assassination? Or was it all just a mess of chaos and confusion. Not only is this film great to look at and full of memorable performances, it’s also historically accurate, and that’s why I give Parkland a heavy recommendation.