By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Michael Shannon finally hit the big time as General Zod in Man of Steel this summer, but any even casual fans of cinema should have recognized those crazy eyes as soon as they saw them. He’s made a career of absolutely stealing any movie (and, increasingly TV shows like Boardwalk Empire) he’s in, no matter how small the role.
He’s in this for like 3 minutes, yet dominates it
He’s also been quietly amassing a excellent leading man’s resume in independent movies like Take Shelter and Bug, and this year has brought The Iceman, in which he plays real-life mob hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, who is alleged to have killed over 100 people before his capture. The film charts his entry and rise in the business, as well as the double life he led as an unassuming family man who trades stocks or something. Who cares as long as the groceries are paid for?
Michael Shannon is a terrifying human being. I’m not sure if I can think of anyone more suited to play a conscious-less, coldly professional killer and he really sinks his teeth into the role. His Iceman has a veneer of normalcy covering the raging beast inside, but when that comes out, holy shit. His ending scene in particular is a pure acting seminar.
Music Video vet Ariel Vroman shoots the film slickly if not particularly inventively, and it’s clear he has a long studio career ahead of him, although less so if he can do any better than this. Also, it’s fun to play “who’s that” with the supporting cast, many of them disguised by glamtacular 70s and 80s facial hair. Also, James Franco shows up for no real reason, as he’s wont to do.
Lookin’ good, David Schwimmer!
The rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite as well as Shannon, although that may be as much a function of direction and script as acting skill (particularly in the case of Chris Evans’s role). Then again, Schwimmer, Winona Ryder, and Ray Liotta haven’t exactly been at the top of their game for the last decade or so, so maybe not.
That script’s doing them no favors, though. The plot is forward-driving and thoroughly conventional, and way, way too fixated on Shannon killing folk. In fact, eventually it becomes Shannon kills someone, has a benign family scene, plot nugget, Shannon kills someone… wash, repeat. Your attention will wonder.
Hmm, I wonder how fast that grass is growing out there…
There is one scene in particular that really stuck in my craw. Shannon and Ryder are getting all frisky, when their two teenage daughters bound into the room and hop in bed with them to watch the TV news. Already, that’s about five different kinds of wrong, and kind of makes me wonder if the screenwriter has ever seen a teenage girl in the wild. Then they have a conversation about Catholic School full of dime-story philosophy and ending with “there’s too many people in the world for God to worry about” and one girl nodding like “yep, guess that makes sense” which makes me wonder if the screenwriter’s met any humans before. This scene encapsulates everything wrong with The Iceman: it’s out of touch with human behavior, and ultimately has nothing real to say.
Michael Shannon’s fierce performance is what saves this from another beer (and Direct-to-DVD oblivion, most likely). It’s a real fight for me to recommend you watch it solely for that, though. Maybe if you’re stuck in bed with the flu, or a broken leg perhaps?
Take a Drink: every time a kid gets in the way
Take a Drink: whenever Shannon kills someone like he’s taking out the groceries
Take a Drink: anytime someone thinks fuckin’ with Michael Shannon is a good idea
Take a Drink: whenever it isn’t
Do a Shot: whenever you recognize an actor through all that 70s hair