Warming Up To The Iceman (2012)

the iceman posterA few years back, before we had kids, my wife and I spent some time at her parents’ house in New Hampshire and I happened to see one of HBO’s documentaries on mob hitman Richard Kuklinski. I was instantly captivated by his seemingly honest, simple and concise recollection of over a hundred murders, some of which he was paid to commit and others that came as a result of simple misunderstandings or perceived insults from random people. After getting caught by police, he spoke to plenty of people about what he did and why and those people have written books and made documentaries. The Iceman by director Ariel Vromen is a dramatic retelling of some of those events plus healthy doses of fiction thrown in for added drama.

Basically, Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) grew up in an abusive family that eventually lead him down a life of violence and crime. Before long he found himself married to Deborah (Winona Ryder), but also working for mobster Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who made him an enforcer and hitman. As his life progressed, Kuklinski branched out working for other people, with a fellow killer Mr. Freezy (Chris Evans), knocked off a few of his friends and eventually got caught by the cops.

In addition to being somewhat familiar with the film’s subject, I was also very interested in this cast. Shannon, who I’ve only ever seen as Zod in Man Of Steel, turned out to be positively captivating. I haven’t gone back and looked at the tapes, but his performance made my brain buzz with memories of that viewing experience. On top of that, he also has a real quiet menace to him that makes him scarier than an alien overlord. Captain America himself Evans also stars in the film as a fellow killer who’s a bit looser and crazier. Frankly, the scenes they were in together were delightful in a creepy way.

As far as the actual story goes, it’s pretty solid, though ends abruptly. I guess that’s how it works in real life sometimes, but after reading about Kuklinksi on Wikipedia, I found out about this huge sting operation in the works that was eventually sprung on him. This film is completely told from his perspective (I’m fairly sure there aren’t any scenes where he’s not present, but can’t be positive) so it would make sense that he wouldn’t know, but it felt like a bit of a let down.

And you can’t completely chalk that up to the whole “life is like that sometimes” idea because they definitely made changes to his story for the film. In the movie, his first hit for Demeo is a bum. In real life it was apparently a guy walking his dog. Does that change matter? Not when it comes to showing what they’re trying to show about these characters, but there’s also something to be said about sticking with the facts if the point is to show how complex this guy’s life was. I mean, being a sociopath is one thing, we see it all the time, but to be one with a wife and kids who have NO CLUE what he does is a lot more interesting. Then again, I’m always more scared by the idea of the maniac who blends into the crowd than the one holed up in his house.

At the end of the day, The Iceman is an interesting character study. Shannon and the rest of the cast pull their weight and give solid performances that seem to capture these real life people. While some of it might play off like plenty of other mobster movies, this one benefits from the real life aspects incorporated into the proceedings.

Stretch Is ‘Cannonball Run Meets Bachelor Party’

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Director Joe Carnahan likes to mix things up with his action projects. He did the kinetic, assassin-filled Smokin’ Aces before moving on to The A-Team and then the far more serious Liam Neeson thriller The Grey. Turns out his next film, Stretch, will harken back to the action comedies of the 80s according to star Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, The Conjuring) who also appeared in A-Team.

While talking to Collider about the horror flick Insidious: Part 2, Wilson went on a bit about the film which also stars Chris Pine, Jessica Alba, Ed Helms, Brooklyn Dekker, Ray Liotta and David Hasselhoff:

It’s insane.  It’s all those movies – in a strange way [Insidious] nods to 80’s horror movies, I think in a lot of ways. Stretch is like that for action comedies. It’s completely balls to the wall. The worst night of the limo drivers career going from trying to get this money, all this cast of characters, and a dead guy over my shoulder that’s haunting me the whole time in a shark-skinned suit and a tiny moustache by the name of Ed Helms. I was like, ‘Joe is this Cannonball Run meets Bachelor Party?’  [Laughs] it’s like all those excessive 80’s R-rated action comedies. I mean, it’s insane. Brooklyn Dekker, Jessica Alba…we’d be doing ‘Tonight I’m getting chased down the street by these body guards. Oh and we happened to get a former pro-baller from the Green Bay Packers, he’s going to be chasing you.’ And you’re like, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t we?’ [Laughs] Who’s there today? Today’s David Hasselhoff.  Awesome, who’s he playing? David Hasselhoff. Fantastic! It was that type of movie and it was awesome. It was so much fun. The movie was so much fun. It was insane, insane. So funny, hopefully.

Wilson sounds pretty excited about the project which, combined with the Cannonball Run nod, makes us excited about the project. We’re all for getting more comedy in our action. Stretch will open on March 21, 2014.

 

Bullet Points: Hot Rounds Of Information Goodness

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TheWrap reports that Vin Diesel has signed on to star in the sci-fi, alien-fighting thriller Soldiers Of The Sun at Universal. Written by Arash Amel (Erased, I Am Legend 2), the flick finds Diesel and a group of soldiers in a post-apocalyptic world trying to find a city of gold.

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World War Z writer Matthew Michael Carnahan scored Ray Liotta and Linda Emond to play the parents in his Godfather-inspired modern day mob flick Violent Talent, Deadline reports. Carnahan wrote the script and will also direct.

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Deadline broke news that Hard Candy and 30 Days Of Night director David Slade will direct the first episode of NBC’s pirate series Crossobones. The show was created by Luther‘s Neil Cross and stars John Malkovich.

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The CW’s Arrow will be adding a new character based on the world of DC Comics played by Teryl Rothery (Caprica, Hellcats). SpoilerTV says she’ll portray Jean Lorring, a lawyer who defends Moira Queen for the crimes she confessed at the end of the first season. In the comics, Lorring was married to the Atom and eventually went insane.

Variety says that Switched At Birth‘s Cassi Thompson is replacing Disney star Ashley Tisdale as Nic Cage’s daughter in the big budget version of Left Behind currently in the works.

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Warrior star Joel Edgerton is looking to play Ramses in Ridley Scott’s Exodus against Christian Bale’s Moses, Deadline reports. This sounds like a more serious film, but if these guys don’t throw down at some point, it’s everyone’s loss.

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Sullivan Stapleton, the star of 300: Rise Of An Empire, signed on for Krive Stenders’ Australian thriller Kill Me Three Times, a project that’s been in the works for a while now. [via Deadline]

Finally, if you’re interested in checking out the motion comic prequel to the upcoming Mad Max game,  just check out the videos above and below. The game hits next year, but  what the heck is the deal with Mad Max: Fury Road?

Smokin’ Aces (2006)

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I really, REALLY wanted to like Smokin’ Aces when it came out in 2006. A bunch of us from Wizard were so psyched that we went to see it in the theater and man was I disappointed. I wanted so much for it to be this awesome battle of crazy hired killers killing each other at breakneck speeds. But, that’s not exactly what we got.

So, like I said I was disappointed. But sometimes I don’t like something because it doesn’t match up to my expectations, not necessarily because it’s a bad piece of work. For instance I hated Superman Returns when I first watched it. That sure as heck isn’t the Superman I’ve been reading about since I was a kid (the same reason I don’t like the original Superman movies either, but that’s a discussion for another time). But, upon further viewings I like the movie more. I’m not in love with it (Superman has a KID!) and it’s not even close to my top 20 (maybe even 50) comic based movies. I don’t really agree with the director or writers choices, but it’s a well put together movie.

I can’t say that’s the same case with Aces, though. The movie suffers from all kinds of pacing issues and an overwhelming amount of information, characters and business. Plus, you’ve got the bid end twist (which is incredibly telegraphed, too much I’d say) and then the VERY end is just ridiculous (why the heck would they let him in the room?). The alternate “Cowboy Ending” makes a LOT more sense, though it wouldn’t have made up for the whole thing. I feel like there’s a really good story in there somewhere, but frankly, it’s buried under a mountain of other unnecessary bits of business. The last 20-30 minutes have so many head-slapping and scratching moments that it really kills the movie.

There are some fun moments and bits that have more to do with casting and coincidence than the story. The redneck brothers have a pretty cool shoot-out with blades, guns, a rocket launcher (?) and a chainsaw that’s too short, but still great. Basically, it’s what you expect from the whole movie, but it only lasts a few minutes and resolves itself oddly. Aside from that and one other shoot-out, though, the movie lacks action. It doesn’t lack an awesome cast though. Here’s a brief list: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Common, Andy Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, Jason “Everything’s Better with Bateman” Bateman and even a small roll for Matthew Fox.

Oh, and those redneck brothers I mentioned? They’re made up of Keamy from Lost, Kirk from the new Trek movie and another guy. Yup that makes THREE Lost cast members in the flick and I still didn’t like it. What are the odds?!

All this being said, I would definitely check out the rumored sequel called Smokin’ Aces: Blowback, though I probably won’t shell out $10 again to see it in the theater. For my money, I’d rather check out a Shoot Em Up sequel, because that movie was exactly what I wanted it to be.