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Iceman (Review)

11/06/2013 15:25 BST | Updated 10/08/2013 10:12 BST

Here we see Michael Shannon playing the eponymous Iceman aka Richard Kuklinski, a New Jersey-based Mafia hit man who despatched more than 100 people over a number of years before police finally caught up with him. What distinguishes Kuklinski from his bloodthirsty brethren is that he effectively led a double life, killing only to support his family, who knew nothing of his extracurricular activities. Apparently, he told his wife that he was a currency broker. Thus we see Kuklinski getting up every morning, putting on a smart suit and going to "work" as though leaving for another day in the office. Killing is not something he enjoys. He simply performs a function in order to create the happy family life he never experienced as a child. More than halfway through the film, we come to understand the reason behind Kuklinski's pathological detachment - his abuse at the hands of a brutal father, who savagely beat both Richard and his older brother Joey, in prison for killing a 12-year-old girl. Unlike his brother, Richard has his own twisted moral code: he refuses to kill women and children.

When Kuklinski allows a porn peddler with a big mouth a moment of prayer and the chance to see if God will save his life, we know it's only a matter of time before his line of work catches up with him. As we all know, God moves in mysterious ways...

Iceman boasts a surprisingly impressive cast, including Ray Liotta as Mob boss Roy Demeo, David Schwimmer as his partner, the loose cannon Josh Rosenthal, and Winona Ryder as Kuklinski's long-suffering wife Deborah. And James Franco and Chris Evans pop up in smaller roles. Director Ariel Vromen behaves like the Iceman himself, moving from one scene to another with almost clinical efficiency. And this is where the film falls down. With such a high calibre cast, it is more than a shame Vromen does not really allow them room to breathe. Consequently, this is a curiously underwhelming film. It ends not with a bang but with a whimper with Kuklinski safely behind bars and shunned by his much-loved family. He is unrepentant about his crimes and only expresses regret for hurting his family.

Vromen seems unsure what message to leave the audience with. This is a surprisingly moralistic film and he seems conflicted about making Kuklinski too sympathetic. Ultimately, this is to the film's detriment.