Presented as a true crime story, Iceman is a beat-for-beat breakdown of almost every mob/hitman film of the last thirty years: the meeting of the eventual wife, the first crime, the recruitment, the rise and glory days, the crew member screw-up, the infighting, the paranoia and finally, as established in the first scene, the fall. Great films of the genre play with this format, or at least shoot it in engaging ways, but Iceman hits each of these spots in such a perfunctory manner that the only indication of something important happening is that the score gets louder.
The dull delivery is particularly shameful considering the strength of Michael Shannon’s performance. Again playing the quietly menacing character he’s perfected over the last few years, Shannon is the steely glacier that keeps the entire film from setting adrift. Winona Ryder as well turns in a strong showing in an underutilized role.
Enough notable actors appear in brief roles that most of the movie’s interest comes either through Shannon’s performance or in trying to remember which roles you’ve seen each character in before. This doesn’t break the reality of the film anymore than the fact that over the course of twenty years Shannon is the only one who ages, mostly through hairstyles. Ryder looks as mature in days of rotary phones as she does in that of beepers, and their children are born and remain teenagers.
While there is a certain degree of tension as the film progresses, undercut by an opening scene which reveals the lead lives long enough to be caught, this simply isn’t enough to carry any momentum or weight. If Iceman is in any way important it’s as proof that the mob/hitman genre already has its masterpieces, and a new entry in the genre should only be attempted if it offers something entirely new, which this film doesn’t. [subscribe2]