Venice warms to a chilling portrait of a killer

Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:54pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Audiences watching "The Iceman", a new film about real-life hitman Richard Kuklinski who killed more than 100 people, may come away with the uncomfortable feeling that they have been rooting for the bad guy.

Israel-born director Ariel Vromen sets out to paint a rounded picture of the notorious mob enforcer, who died in jail in 2006, portraying him not only as a cold-blooded killer but also a charming, devoted husband and father of two girls.

The Iceman has its world premiere on Thursday at the Venice film festival, where it is not in the main competition but has earned glowing early reviews, in particular for lead actor Michael Shannon playing Kuklinski.

The towering American, as physically imposing as the man he portrays, is both tender and cruel, and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, showed "once again that he can explore the darkness within like few actors working today.

"It's a tribute to this astonishing actor that no matter how vicious his actions, Richie remains an antihero with an unyielding grip on our attentions," it said in its review.

The 38-year-old earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of John Givings in "Revolutionary Road", and with the Venice festival coming at the start of the awards season, he could figure again this year in the lead actor category.

"By the end of the movie you're like, 'I like that guy!' and you're like, 'why?' And I think those connections make it different than many other gangster films," Vromen told reporters after a media screening on Thursday.

ABUSED AS CHILD   Continued...

U.S. actress Winona Ryder poses during the red carpet for the movie "Iceman" at the 69th Venice Film Festival August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile