Synopsis | “The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.”
I get fixated on certain films before they’re released, I don’t know why or how, there’s just that obsessive fan inside me that loves getting hyped on a film. It’s a good thing and the day I lose that intrigue and excitement is the day that I should probably stop trying to be a filmmaker. You’ve got to get excited about what you do, and for what I do, a big part of that is getting excited about what other people are doing. I love films and if I didn’t, this whole game that I’m trying to play just wouldn’t work. Every so often, there’s a film that just leaps out and grabs my attention through trailers or articles in magazines. It’s always by chance and that’s what I like because it means that film has a real spontaneous spiritual connection with what I like. I found ‘The Iceman’ by stumbling on a trailer and being excited because it starred the incredible Michael Shannon. Shannon was the hook and from there I fell in love with the look of the movie and that led me to delve further into the world, reading a great preview in Total Film, watching interviews and researching the story. It’s such a fun process for me just imagining what this film could be like; obsessing, fantasising, romancing and buzzing right until the the film begins and that’s where all my buzz gets swapped for total absorption in the movie…if I’m absorbed, and it lives up to my hype then I’m happy, if it falls short of the promises I made it make in my head, then I get sad. This special buzz doesn’t happen with all films of course, there’s just some that I fall in love with and every time I do, I’ll make sure I write something before and after I’ve seen it as a nice little comparison exercise. For now, let me delve into why I’m so excited about this film.
Michael Shannon | Believe all the good things you hear about this man. He’s terrific. He’s certainly not the Hollywood ‘celebrity’ type and that’s the way I like it, he’s just a very talented actor. I knew of Shannon’s existence but I first sat up and took notice when I saw him ‘Take Shelter’ where he gave a chillingly powerful performance. The film has a great story of course, but I loved watching it more for Shannon’s presence than anything else. I get that a lot actually where I just loved watching actors act and as much as I’m into the technical side of filmmaking, I just lose myself in the performance. Maybe it’s the frustrated actor inside me, rueing the decision not to chase the drama dreams I had when I was 15, or maybe it’s the love of a great story and great direction coming together in a performance. To illustrate my point about the power of actors on some films, I have the very same enjoyment with just watching Ryan Gosling in ‘Drive’ and Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’ where the characters are totally engrossing. The great thing with Shannon in ‘Take Shelter’ wasn’t that he took centre stage by playing up to the stage, but by making the stage enshroud itself around him. The stage is simply his performance and he has the ability to carry the audience with him wherever he goes. He’s not performing for us, we’re turning up to watch him, almost reversing the general philosophy of performance because he’s that good. Here’s a lovely interview with the man himself on playing the tricky role of a hitman.
The Director | Ariel Vromen takes the reigns on this one and I’ve got to be honest, I’d never heard of him before this movie and I’ve never seen anything else he’s done. I do forgive myself because IMDB says this is (only) his 5th directing gig with the last being way back in 2006. I’m glad I don’t know anything about the director because I’m a blank slate with no idea about his style, and that’s just magic in it’s own right. I’m putty to be moulded and it’s the best way to be. All I will say is that this guy must be doing something right because he’s certainly got himself a tremendous cast. It’s rare for a film to attract audiences through the name of a director alone and since Vromen isn’t (yet) a Tarantino or a Spielberg it’s the story and star power of the cast which usually piques the everyman’s interest. But still, to get this star power it’s either about the money or the art and since this is a relatively small film with a modest $10 million budget I’m guessing that it was either Vromen’s artistic vision or the strength of his script which managed to impress the cast. This gives me high hopes that the film will be good at it’s very core because it doesn’t look like they’ve thrown money at the stars to fix a sucky concept, it seems like the concept has brought in the names which is the way it should be. It’s speculation, but that’s what I hope anyway. The recognisable names include Ray Liotta, Chris (Captain America) Evans, James Franco (although said to be a very small appearance), Winona Ryder (the very same) and the one I’m most excited about, David Schwimmer (that wasn’t sarcasm, I really loved him in ‘Big Nothing’). Vromen certainly seems like a very clever guy in this interview and I’m excited about his passion which I hope will be infused in the film.
Expectations | Now this is silly isn’t it? I don’t want to expect anything because thats putting unfair pressure on a film to which I said I was putty to be moulded. However, it’s hard not to get a sense of how a movie will be because ultimately, thats what the marketing team do, guiding your initial opinions to think the film will be arty, funny, actiony or anything else. So is it wrong to have an expectation? I suppose it can’t be avoided. The expectation I have is that it’ll just be a great story told through great performances. I’m not fascinated by the life of a contract killer, that isn’t why I want to see it. The subject matter is almost arbitrary, it’s the fact that I feel it will be a well crafted, well presented tale. The trailer itself doesn’t give too much away but it isn’t a spoiler to google the man this story is about and find out he was caught, jailed and sentenced to death. I don’t anticipate much ‘jail time’ in the film and it seems most of the story will be looking at the contrast between being a hired gun by day and a family man by night. However, I’m expecting to see some big comeuppance for Shannon’s Kuklinski because this is the fate that we as the audience know is coming. There’s that beautiful sense of dramatic irony whereby as the film unfolds, we’ll probably be rooting for our protagonist to turn his life around but we already know he doesn’t. But the magic is in those glimmers of hope, for if there was no hope in the film, it’s hard to see how we would be engaged. I expect to be taken through a life which juxtaposes brutal murder with caring husbandry which raises moral questions about the goodness in a person versus goodness in their actions, and issues about identity that come with it. It looks like there’ll be a lot of food for thought in this one. At least I hope so.
And finally, I’ll leave you with a video interview with the man all of this is based on. Shannon says that he watched the 20 hour unedited version as research so it’ll be interesting to see how his performance compares to the real subject and what similarities and differences there are. I’m definitely going to be watching this, I just haven’t decided whether that’ll be before or after I’ve seen The Iceman.