"The Iceman": The Cliche of the Cold-Hearted Hitman

Its title and the gentle stress on Chris Evans in a supporting role notwithstanding, The Iceman is in no way another comics spinoff, but maybe it should have been. Early on in this merely adequate mob thriller, Ray Liotta points a gun right at Michael Shannon's face and calls him cold as ice for not flinching. "Why do you act like you don't give a shit?" Liotta even asks, but the face remains impassive. That unanswered question is, unsatisfyingly, the essence of the movie, which director Ariel Vromen and co-writer Morgan Land adapted from the life story of actual mafia-affiliated serial killer Richard Kuklinski, here played as an acting exercise for the towering, unchallenged Shannon. The filmmakers' apparent strategy for dramatic shape: This happened, so here's a movie about it, and because it's one of these movies, here's Liotta for context. Another reason for the title is Kuklinski's eventual habit of freezing his victims' corpses to obscure their times of death. Otherwise, he was a family man, with a wife (Winona Ryder), two daughters, and a lush patch of fashionably modulating facial hair, in suburban 1970s New Jersey. The rest is straight goombah-movie stuff: tense loyalty tests, loose ends in need of ruthless tying up, escalating threats to family, appearances by David Schwimmer and James Franco which we suspect won't end well, and, in one unconventional touch, a deathless cat as harbinger of final unraveling. Well, at least Shannon will get to play a proper comic-book villain in Man of Steel later this summer.

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