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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

DOES the world need an­other New Jersey crime story on film? Prob­a­bly not. But the film world at least needs an op­por­tu­nity to re­visit Michael Shan­non’s at­tributes af­ter he huffed and puffed his way through the re­cent Man of Steel.

He’s such a chill­ing ac­tor, his over-the-top per­for­mance as Gen­eral Zod op­po­site Su­per­man was a dis­ap­point­ment. It also ate at the in­deli­ble mem­ory of his re­cent per­for­mances in films in­clud­ing Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road and Take Shel­ter.

His per­for­mance in The Ice­man (MA15+, Road­show, 101min, $39.95) re­stores the bal­ance. Shan­non plays no­to­ri­ous con­tract killer Richard Kuk­lin­ski with an in­ten­sity and cold­ness that re­calls the chill of grow­ing mael­strom in Take Shel­ter. You don’t want to type­cast the guy but he por­trays men hid­ing im­pend­ing ex­plo­sions with rare aplomb. He’s a Scors­ese man, not an Adam San­dler man, and a clear choice to play the Ice­man.

The trou­ble is the char­ac­ter he plays in Ariel Vromen’s film, and within the screen­play cowrit­ten by Mor­gan Land, is as cold as the nick­name of its ti­tle char­ac­ter. Its story is based on An­thony Bruno’s novel, The Ice­man: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, and a 1992 HBO doc­u­men­tary.

To his credit, Vromen doesn’t ro­man­ti­cise the gang­ster life in Scors­ese fash­ion, nor is he par­tic­u­larly gra­tu­itous or lurid. It’s a tough watch on sev­eral lev­els. It’s not comic or op­er­atic as so many mob­ster movies tend to be but it doesn’t drag you down into ex­plicit gore. The con­stant threat of doom is height­ened by Shan­non’s still, fo­cused per­for­mance as a man who, af­ter be­ing ar­rested in 1986, claimed to have car­ried out 100 hits for the mob dur­ing a 20-year span.

Bobby Bukowski’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy gives the film a dark­ness that would feel nour­ish­ing if it weren’t also com­bined with its de­sat­u­rated colours. It is also dis­tin­guished by sev­eral no­table co-stars and cameos. Chief among the co-stars are Wi­nona Ry­der as the long-suf­fer­ing wife and Ray Liotta, who looks like Shan­non. Liotta plays Roy DeMeo, the crime lord who pro­vides Kuk­lin­ski with the means and fo­rum in which to par­lay his par­tic­u­lar skills. View­ers may also en­joy a barely recog­nis­able David Sch­wim­mer as one of Roy’s min­ions and cameos from Stephen Dorff, Chris Evans and James Franco. The film, to be fair, needs them given it’s a rather strict bi­og­ra­phy and Kuk­lin­ski ap­pears to be a one-note per­son, a re­lent­less killer with­out light or shade. Re­pres­sion as a per­son­al­ity trait is not the most en­ter­tain­ing cin­e­matic qual­ity.

Only the du­al­ity of his life — feared killer on one hand and up­stand­ing fam­ily man on the other — pro­vides con­trast, so the bit play­ers fly in and out of the film pro­vid­ing light around Shan­non’s dark­ness.

Nev­er­the­less, Shan­non is so good, The Ice­man be­comes a lit­tle more di­vert­ing film than it de­served to be.

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