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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Iceman is based on real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who raised a family that knew nothing about what he did for a living. Expect very strong violence, mostly around Kuklinski's killings, which involve both shooting and stabbing/slicing. Some blood is shown, but even more disturbing are the scenes in which he freezes and then chops up his victims. Language is also extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k" and lots of other words. There's one semi-explicit sex scene and many references to porn movies, with some brief clips shown and audio heard. Drug deals are shown (with a supporting character testing some cocaine), and characters sometimes drink in a background way. The movie's strong, depressing subject matter won't make it a much of a draw for teens.
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What's the story?
Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) starts out in the 1960s working in a warehouse, making prints of porn movies. He meets Deborah (Winona Ryder) and starts dating her, but it's clear that something's up, since Richard has the cold, calculating ability to kill a man after a minor squabble in a bar. Later, a powerful hood, Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta), hires Richard as a contract killer, and he starts to climb the ladder of success. He marries Deborah and raises two girls. But after an error on a job, he's suspended and starts his own side business with another killer, "Mr. Freezy" (Chris Evans), who uses chemicals and modern methods. But it's only a matter of time before Roy figures out what's going on and seeks revenge on Richie and his family.
Is it any good?
Based on real events, the story of Richard Kuklinski is definitely an odd one. He supposedly killed more than 100 people while remaining a loving husband and father to two girls, and they never knew what he was up to. It would be difficult to mess up a story like this. So it's somewhat underwhelming that director Ariel Vromen chooses to film it in a fairly straightforward way, using the well-worn, standard-issue biopic formula that has won many awards.
While most of the movie feels rather ordinary, the tried-and-true biopic formula does usually allow for at least one great performance, and we get that from Shannon in the lead role. He's already a fearsome actor with a warm patch of humanity, and no one else could have played the role so completely. Likewise, Ryder expertly re-invents herself for her role and is nearly unrecognizable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Iceman's violence. How much violence is necessary to illustrate just who Richard Kuklinski was?
Are the members of Richie's family role models, or are they victims? How did you feel about them?
What is it about Richie that made him so "icy"? How was he able to lie so easily to his family? Did it appear that he loved them? Is he a sympathetic character in any way?
What's the appeal of biopics, stories about real people? Does the subject of a biopic have to be an admirable person for it to succeed?