The Iceman: Rated “R’ (105 Minutes)
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer
Directed by: Ariel Vromen
As individuals we wear a number of masks. We present one face to our family, another to our friends, and another to our co-workers and business associates, but do any of them really know who we are? (At this point in the conversation we are always reminded of the stories of men who have two families each not knowing of the others, or the prim and proper wife who lives the double life of a call girl.) Still this not any of that; this is the story of Richard Kuklinski. The story of Richard Kuklinski (Shannon) is the story of a man who — completely unbeknownst to his wife and family — was a mafia contract killer with somewhere between 100 and 250 kills to his credit (Kuklinski’s own accounts are somewhat fuzzy).
Based on Anthony Bruno’s chilling book The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer the film follows the actual events of Kuklinski, who was referred to as The Iceman because of not only his detached demeanor, but his penchant for freezing the bodies that he killed so as to hide the time of death from coroners. The film follows Kuklinski from his early days in the mob until his arrest in 1986. From all outward appearances, he seemed to be a normal guy, living the American dream as a devoted husband and father. However, in reality Kuklinski was a ruthless killer-for-hire. When finally arrested, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.
Presented without any of the Hollywoodized glamour about contract killers, the Mafia, or being “gangster” the fill delivers a compelling, straight-ahead, grim look into the life of this man. On some level he was a simple man, who was just interested in protecting his family, but underneath all of that he was a deeply disturbed individual who would kill you for any real or imagined slight. When we first meet Kuklinski he is courting his soon-to-be-wife (Ryder) and dubbing porn films for a local thug when he comes to the attention of a minor Mob boos, Roy Demeo (Liotta), who taps into Kuklinski’s darker side and starts using him to make hits.
As the years progress, we see several of the hits that Kuklinski makes (with him eventually teaming up with another hit man as they start to take on more work from other bosses). For the most part, Kuklinski is able to keep his dark urges and proclivities under wraps, but occasionally we see that part of him bubble to the surface. For his part Shannon plays this role with a chilling stoic behavior, letting us see that while he perhaps does love his family, this is a man who knows what he is fully capable of doing, and totally willing to do in order to achieve what he wants. This is a dangerous man.
Unsettling and disturbing, this is a very gripping story that commands the viewer’s attention.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.