Monday, April 3, 2017

The Iceman (2012) Bio Noir

A Bio Noir film based on the true story of longtime New Jersey hitman Richard Kuklinski. The film was directed by Ariel Vromen. Based on the book by written by Anthony Bruno and the documentary by James Thebaut, the screenplay was written by Morgan Land and Ariel Vromen. The cinematography was by Bobby Bukowski (Arlington Road (1999)). The music was by Haim Mazar.

The film stars Michael Shannon (The Missing Person (2009), Nocturnal Animals (2016)) as Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski, Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice (1988), Night on Earth (1991)) as Deborah Kuklinski, Chris Evans (Snowpiercer (2013)) as Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge, Ray Liotta (The New Mike Hammer TV Series (1984–1989), Something Wild (1986), Goodfellas (1990), Cop Land (1997), Hannibal (2001), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)) as Roy DeMeo, James Franco as Marty Freeman, David Schwimmer (NYPD Blue TV Series (1993–2005),American Crime Story TV Series (2016– )) as Josh Rosenthal, John Ventimiglia (Cop Land (1997), The Notorious Bettie Page (2005), The Sopranos TV Series (1999–2007), The Missing Person (2009) ) as Mickey Scicoli, Robert Davi (Gangster Wars (1981), City Heat (1984), Die Hard (1988)) as Leo Marks and Stephen Dorff as Joseph Kuklinski.

Kuklinsky (Shannon)

Deborah (Ryder)
Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski looks somewhat normal on the outside, but he's seriously bent, totally wacked, a nutjob, crazier than a shit house rat. He is a douchebag, I mean a real total douchebag, but he's a douchebag with principles, he doesn't kill women or children. He compartmentalised his life, a good principled family man in one slot, a dubber for bootlegged pornographic films (he tells his wife (Ryder) he's working on Disney cartoons) in another, and a cold blooded mob killer in the next.

porno dubbing

He had a Polish immigrant father who brutally beat both him and his brother (Dorff). The film barely touches on this. But we get the message and all it's implications quick. We see him cut the throat of a guy who just insulted his future wife after a game of pool. His own seriously fucked up brother Joseph (whom he never tells his wife about and he himself basically disowns) is serving time for raping and murdering a twelve-year-old girl.

 Joseph Kuklinski (Dorff)
Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta), is a Jersey mob boss. DeMeo is pissed because his dubbed pornfilm product is late. He decides to visit his operation to see what's what. He confronts Kuklinski who stands up for himself. It's never explained but the porn film biz is going down the tubes, perhaps DeMeo is seeing the future in VHS tapes. DeMeo is closing down his porn lab, Kuklinski is out of a job. DeMeo sees a bit of potential a bit of spark in this hard case ex employee. He gives him a test, he hands him a gun and tells him to kill a homeless man. Richard passes with flying colors.

  Mickey Scicoli (Ventimiglia) lt. and Kuklinsky

 Roy DeMeo (Liotta)

 Josh Rosenthal (Schwimmer)

Richard begins a new career. It's basically Murder, Inc. All goes well until Kuklinski lets a teenage girl (who was hiding in a closet) live after he whacks a porn photographer. Killing women and children is against his principles. Interestingly this taboo against killing women led to the demise of Vince Edwards in the Classic Film Noir  Murder by Contract (1958). Anyway letting this witness live puts his ass in the wringer. DeMeo, cuts him off, puts him "on suspension." Kuklinski, after a few months in dry dock begins to go bonkers (if that's even possible). He gets into fights with his wife, and gets a serious case of road rage when he get's into a fender bender.

During his "active" period he'd met another hit for the mob Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge (based on Robert "Mister Softee" Pronge) who drives around in an ice cream truck. Pronge does contract assassinations for DeMeo's boss Leo Marks (Robert Davi).

I remember the ice cream truck coming around to my neighborhood as a kid growing up in Astoria, Queens in the 50s and 60s. Mr. Softee eventually replaced the Bungalow Bar ice cream trucks. Bungalow Bar sold hard ice cream, while Mr. Softee sold twistie soft ice cream and the trucks were modern self contained soda fountains. Hell, for all I know, I may have bought some ice cream from Pronge, lol.

Kuklinski remembers Pronge, seeks him out, and asks him if he could sub contract sort of "freelance" for him. Kuklinski will take all the chances on the hits and they'll split the disposal work and the profits. Part of the genius of the operation was that Pronge and Kuklinski would use the ice cream truck to transport the victims and the freezer at the ice cream warehouse to store the bodies for indefinite periods of time.

Kuklinski lt., Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge ( Evans)

Of course it all goes even more Noirsville. DeMeo eventually finds out about Kuklinski's self employment. Kuklinski kills Marks when he threatens his family, and when Kuklinski's daughter is hit by a hit and run driver he suspects it was done by Pronge, who he kills. In 1986 Kuklinski is caught up in a sting operation and put out of business.


It's Michael Shannon's film all the way, he plays a 180 from the somewhat dysfunctional alkie detective in The Missing Person. His is a powerful performance, he exudes dread, while displaying a normal perfectly composed exterior to his family and friends. If you saw this guy he plays on the sidewalk you'd cross to the other side ot the street. The rest of the cast is pretty much pitch perfect, with performances that punctuate the various sequences. The cinematography and production design recreates beautifully the grimey NY-NJ metro area of 60s,70s, 80s.

Screencaps are from the Millennium 2014 DVD. 7/10

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