I’ve been a little under the weather and it’s left me with a little bit of a backlog of movies so I’m going to make these next 3 reviews a little shorter than usual. No need to thank me.
So this is a smaller, lower budget movie starring Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski, a real life mafia (and recreational) killer in the New York/New Jersey areas operating in the 70s and 80s. The film kind of attempts to tell his story in a Goodfellas kind of manner, taking him from his entry into the hitman world through to his capture, with multiple hairstyles (facial and, erm, head-al) marking the passing of the years. The problem is that where Goodfellas opened with a line guaranteed to pull you in – “Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to be a gangster”* – showed you how that fantasy became a reality and then showed you how the reality slowly tore the man and his family apart, here we’re never given the level of emotional investment necessary to properly engage.
Shannon gives a performance that could be used as the dictionary definition of chilling, but the plot never allows us to get to know the man or understand him. It appears as though he becomes a contract killer because he’s asked to be one. He seems to view it as a job that he does 9-5 and can put aside when he gets home, but the reality suggests that Kuklinski was a man who loved his work and took great pride in mastering doling out death. The script never really allows us to see this. Instead, we are shown a mildly reluctant killer who loves his wife (a composed Winona Ryder) and two daughters. Are we supposed to sympathise with a man who allegedly killed over 100 people, including practicing his art on the homeless?
In the end, as stylish as the film looks, and as good as the performances are, the film is a minor failure precisely because it doesn’t draw you in.
Length – 1hr 45mins – Feels – 2hrs
*Yes, I am aware this wasn’t the very start of the film, but it’s the when the film gets kickstarted after the flash-forward opening.