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Ariel Vromen directs this gritty biopic tracing the career of New York contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon). After convincing his Catholic wife Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder) that he works for Disney when he in fact produces porn videos, Polish-American Kuklinski soon finds himself on the payroll of local mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) as an 'enforcer'. As he warms to his new role amidst the New Jersey underworld, despatching 'contracts' with clinical precision, a striking contrast begins to build between that of the outwardly devoted family man and the ruthlessly efficient, emotionless killer.
For more about The Iceman and the The Iceman Blu-ray release, see the The Iceman Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Ariel Vromen
Writer: Ariel Vromen
Starring: Michael Shannon (V), Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco, David Schwimmer
» See full cast & crew
The Iceman Blu-ray Review
Iceman and Hollywood...sounds like those are just supposed to go together.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 13, 2013
Do you have any regrets for the things you've done?
Director Ariel Vromen's (Danika) The Iceman tells a dark and sobering, albeit largely straightforward, story of a cold, stoic killer and the slow erosion of both his family and himself over his many years as a contract killer-for-hire. It's based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski, certainly not a household name but who was nevertheless, if the story as shown in the film is accurate, one of the most dangerous killers in modern American history. In fact, he's said to have carried out over 100 executions while living the double life of a notorious hit man and a loving father and provider to a family completely unaware of his actions. Like the man, the films is cold and calculated, sobering and emotionally challenging. It's not the finest film of its genre, but it's a capable, moody, and chilling picture made very well and improved significantly by a powerhouse performance from Michael Shannon as the title character.
Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) works a go-nowhere post-production job in the underground pornography business. One night, he's approached by Gambino Family enforcer Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) who comes to admire Kuklinski's steely resolve and fearless exterior. When Kuklinski proves himself by gunning down a vagrant in broad daylight, DeMeo takes him on as an enforcer of sorts, tasking him with collecting money, watching his back, and taking down anyone interfering with business as usual. Kuklinski's fortunes increase. Over time, he's able to move his family into a larger home and provide a better way of life. Nevertheless, and try as he might, the dark world of the criminal underground sometimes gets in the way of his idyllic family life, resulting in an invisible tension that could be Kuklinski's undoing.
In essence, The Iceman plays like a darker, more serious, lower budget, and smaller scope True Lies. The benefit is a more intimate portrait of a man, and a believable portrait at that. Neither True Lies' Harry Tasker nor The Iceman's Richard Kuklinski are in any way relatable -- one is a larger-than-life hero the other a dark, unlikable, but in some ways sympathetic villain -- but they both serve as prime examples of men who work with a particular skill set that would threaten their family's stability if it were to be exposed, in one way or the other. In both films, it's that battle to conceal the truth and prevent its exposure that's the real highlight. Of course, both films and their respective characters go about that in different ways, and the filmmakers approach each film differently, too. The Iceman is sometimes almost impenetrably dark and bleak. Gritty and unwelcoming exteriors define much of the picture and, no coincidence, the themes. The picture never aims for other than a linear tale of a man's rise and fall in the criminal underworld, here in the context of a secret life. The real challenge, really, is figuring out which life is the secret life. Is it the life of crime he tries to hide from his family, or is it the family life and emotions he strives to keep out of his criminal doings? That's where the film truly shines, and it's because of Michael Shannon's powerhouse performance that it's so successful at blurring that line as to Richard Kuklinski's true inner identity.
Shannon has quickly risen in the ranks to become not just one of Hollywood's most dependable actors, but one of its finest. His recent run of excellence, including his Oscar-nominated performance in Revolutionary Road and his unforgettable work in both Premium Rush and Take Shelter show his growth, but his turn as Richard Kuklinski may be his finest yet. The multifaceted performance of the many-layered character is spot-on and intoxicatingly strong in every scene. Even when the film seems to gloss over important character-building details or move too quickly through Kuklinski's life, Shannon recovers the sacrificed development and lost time with not only incredible screen presence but a true character transformation that's as even a balance between outward and inward growth as any filmmaker could want. Shannon is alone reason enough to see the film. No doubt there's a Best Actor Oscar somewhere in his future. Shannon's supporting cast is wonderful. Ray Liotta plays the sort of character in which he excels, portraying the angry bad guy who breaks Kuklinski into the life. Chris Evans and Winona Rider, too, fall into character beautifully, with Rider delivering a powerful performance as Kuklinski's wife.
The Iceman Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Iceman's 1080p transfer reflects the picture's somewhat gritty, fairly dark, and largely flat texture. There's a real shortage of color here, and that's the predominant visual theme throughout the movie. It's drab, bleak, cold, and unwelcoming. The brightest daytime exteriors even lack real punch, favoring that same frigid, pale tone, just lessened by the natural light. Black levels often appear overly bright and washed out, particularly early in the film's darker scenes but certainly throughout the entire movie as well. Details are stable but hardly eye-catching. In better-lit close-up shots, quality clothing textures and facial details are revealed to satisfaction. Occasional bouts of light banding are also visible. The image is lightly, but evenly, grainy. This is certainly no looker, but Millennium's transfer appears rather faithful to the picture's intended tone and mood.
The Iceman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Iceman features an aggressive and often sonically dazzling Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Every element plays evenly and robustly, whether music, atmosphere, or loud action. Music enjoys clear, well-spaced notes and solid, but not cumbersome, surround support. A balanced low end solidifies its stage presence. Of note is a rich, vibrant, and energized dance hall rendition of Blondie's Heart of Glass heard in chapter eight. It's a hair muddled but that only reinforces an authentic club sound. The track is packed with a good bit of environmental ambience. Street level cars, horns, and pedestrians bring outdoor scenes to realistic life, while light music, clanking silverware, and other basic mood pieces in a restaurant beautifully define one early scene. The biggest action scenes also enjoy pinpoint sonic support, particularly a few authentic gunshots that ring out with crisp, punchy authority. A screaming symphony of sirens and screeching tires late in the film create an unnerving few moments leading to the climax. Dialogue plays evenly and clearly from the center. This is a track that gets everything right and supports the movie as well as can be expected.
The Iceman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Iceman contains two featurettes.
The Iceman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ariel Vromen's The Iceman delivers a tight, dark, and disturbingly fascinating tale of a man living two lives and the inward and outward process of keeping them separate, which seems a more insurmountable objective than becoming one of the most notorious killers-for-hire in modern history. The picture's moody atmosphere is a strength, and its occasional failure to more fully develop its characters or their progression is largely offset by a powerhouse performance from Michael Shannon, an actor who is quickly becoming one of the best of his time. Millennium Entertainment's Blu-ray release of The Iceman delivers quality video and exceptional audio. Two supplements are included. Recommended.
The Iceman: Other Editions
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The Iceman Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: September 3-10 - September 3, 2013
For the week of September 3rd, Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment are releasing Now You See Me, Louis Leterrier's surprise hit about bank-robbing magicians. Other titles include Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem adaptation, the final season of Starz's Spartacus, ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Iceman - August 27, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Millennium Entertainment are offering five members a chance to win a copy of director Ariel Vromen's crime thriller The Iceman (2012), starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco and Ray Liotta. The Iceman arrives on Blu-ray ...
• The Iceman Blu-ray (Updated) - July 24, 2013
Millennium Entertainment will bring to Blu-ray director Ariel Vromen's crime thriller The Iceman (2012), starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and Chris Evans. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the United States on September ...
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