STORY BY Talia Aroshas
Published: May 20, 2013
On December 17th, 1986, after having allegedly killed somewhere between 100-250 men, Richard Kuklinski was arrested at a roadblock near his home, with his wife in the car, and charged with 5 counts of murder, 6 weapon violations, and attempted murder, among other things.
However, ask most any outsider, inclusive of his wife and children, and you would have been told that Kuklinski was none other than a loving family man. And while the latter may remain true—as I have no doubts as to how much he loved his family, I’m am led to presume, by the facts given in the very opening of this account, that he also had a few, well, let’s call them “dark hobbies” for arguments sake. Although, I’m not really sure what we are arguing here, as I think anybody with a soul can agree to them to being dark. Moving on.
In writer/director Ariel Vromen’s recently released movie, appropriately titled The Iceman, after the nickname mafia hit man, Kuklinksi, earned himself in the press before his capture, the audience is thrown a conscience curveball as they are told a story about a family, a story about love, and, oh yeah, a story about murder. However, it’s this very push on our conscience, this very nauseating confusion of whether or not we should sympathize with this assumed monster and his supposed “innocent” family that makes this movie so damn good.
And it is wretchedly apparent from the beginning that this was Vromen’s exact intension: the film opens with the adorable, yet awkward, first date of Kuklinksi and his future wife and we are immediately drawn into to a personal love story of a man and his family, and the murder thing, well, that’s just on the side. This theme remains constant throughout the film as, never once, do we question the deep love Kuklinski had for his family. We do see episodes of his horrendous temper, which almost lead his family to danger, but these are then brought to equilibrium with scenes of love and forgiveness. It is this love, and refusal to ever hurt a woman or child that, for lack of a better term, humanizes the otherwise terrifying serial killer.
Although made on a tight wallet and schedule, it is such things as a powerhouse script, story, and killer cast that allows this movie to soar above the reaches of a big budget blockbuster. Starring the likes of the brilliant Michael Shannon, believed to be one of the best actors of our time, Wynonna Ryder, and Ray Liotta, to name a few, it’s hard to find a second of time where you don’t actually feel as though you are watching real life unfold in front of your eyes.
In order to reach such a level of believability the actors kept a rather somber set, and stuck to a strict work ethic. On between take activities, Shannon recounts, “When I did Kangaroo Jack, Jerry O’Connel and Anthony Anderson used to play Boggle between takes….but I didn’t have anybody to play Boggle with!”
Ryder even refused to see the documentary account, as, like her character, she wanted to remain ignorant of the accounts. Although, it is her belief that Kuklinki’s wife, “Knew more than she led on,” and she was very interested in, “exploring that level of denial.” For as Ryder’s grandfather used to say, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt!” And she felt it was very important to play this universal truth of human character.
I could stress this any more, I would pull out your pocket planner and pencil in a time to see this wonderfully disturbing, incredibly honest, sadly truthful story before it’s put away and forever only available on your computer. For the time they had, the funds they had, and the material they had to deal with, the team behind The Iceman pulled off quite a miracle---a serious movie during which I not once wanted to check my phone for the time. Support these wonderful artists, see a wonderful movie, and please, don’t lose your love and nostalgia for Mr. Softee.
You’ll get that joke when you see the movie. NOW GO!
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