Michael Shannon stars as real life New Jersey hitman Richard Kuklinski, who reputedly snuffed out over one hundred people in his long running career, in this violent tale of one man’s rage fuelled impulses and his conjoined determination to protect his family, together with his need to keep his underworld business with the Mafia a secret from them as a necessary part of that protection. Shannon is fantastic in the role, and Ray Liotta is just as good as the gangster that ‘funds’ his murderous enterprise, although this is hardly surprising since Liotta is pretty much the professional gangster of the big screen, someone should really make ‘Shoot Them One More Time Just to Make Sure’, the Disney musical biography of Ray Liotta’s onscreen career.
Winona Ryder plays Kuklinski’s somewhat faithfully naïve wife, whilst Chris Evans, Captain America himself, turns up as a rival assassin, and David Schwimmer convinces us he’s not Ross from ‘Friends’ this time round. Bizarrely, there is a court room scene at one point that seems to have mostly CGI members of the public sitting in the gallery. It’s a little odd, but otherwise this is a noteworthy gangster film sold primarily on the back of Shannon’s ability to embody the relentless killer that Kuklinski is, whilst also gaining our sympathy for him and his family.
The age certificate screen that appears before the film proper describes it as rated 15 for strong violence, sex and bad language, but I fail to see how graphic images of people having their throats sliced open doesn’t qualify it to be an 18 – neither is the sex especially strong (which is a shame since Winona Ryder is in it). It reminds me of when the computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’, which was rated 18, was pulled from shelves not because you could run around chainsawing old grannies in the street and then rob and kick their corpses, but because a mod version was found to exist whereby once you’d shacked up with whichever one of your lady friends you’d impressed by doing all manner of pointless things, and the screen switched to an outside view of the house whilst you went in for some ‘hot coffee’, you were now able to view the actual act of, ahem, procreation, and could perform different sexual manipulations with the control pad. The game was made in Edinburgh, by Rockstar North, I’m proud to say, but the absurdity of the ban highlighted a bigger problem with censorship in general. Likewise, this should have been an 18, but the lack of genital shots rather than brutal executions are what prevent it from being so. Naturally.