Sometimes a film that may seem derivative from other, better films can be totally redeemed by just one thing. In the case of The Iceman, it may remind you of Goodfellas, but what makes it almost as good as that classic mob movie is the stunning performance of Lexington, Kentucky native Michael Shannon. Shannon is no slouch as an actor, and was Oscar nominated for his supporting role in Revolutionary Road. But in The Iceman he gives a so-far career best performance.
I have not been a fan of director Baz Luhrmann from day one. I was completely underwhelmed by Strictly Ballroom; managed to miss his take on Romeo and Juliet; and his epic Valentine to his home country, Australia, was as turgid and unwatchable as just about anything can be. Until I got to Moulin Rouge, which was thoroughly annoying to the point it was one of the few films that had me heading to the exit long before it was over. Needless to say, that track record had me anticipating The Great Gatsby with the same joy as a day at the dentist. Imagine my surprise when I watched the entire film without a twitch, or a fidget, or a glance at the time. I really liked it.
In his third feature film, Mud, writer-director Jeff Nichols has delivered a stirring coming of age tale that’s part Stand by Me, part Hickleberry Finn, and part William Faulkner. If it had been made in the mid-fifties, I can imagine a young Paul Newman as the title character. As it is, Matthew McConaughey, who keeps adding to his acting laurels with each chosen role, plays Mud. From Bernie to Killer Joe to Magic Mike, and now Mud, McConaughey seems determined to break out of the Hollywood rom-com pigeonhole and create characters that impress and intrigue. And maybe even get him an Oscar nomination one day.