“The Iceman” is the nickname given to Richard Kuklinski, a hitman who has claimed to have killed at least 100 people. He was dubbed “The Iceman”, because he froze his victims bodies and disposed of them later so that the police wouldn’t be able to identify the body or who the killer was. Kuklinski lived a double life. By day, he was paid to take out targets by any means necessary. By night, he was a family man with a wife and two daughters. Until his arrest, is family never knew what he really did and who he really was.
This film opens with an eerie shot of Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), who has now been rotting in prison for years. His beard is long overgrown and his eyes are lifeless. As he sits in his cell, he thinks back to his younger years when he first met his wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder). He recalls the first date they went on and how he barely spoke a word, yet Deborah still took an interest in him. He claimed that he worked in the film business doing audio-dubbing for animated movies, but that was far from the truth. Kuklinski worked in a porn lab, where he edited and audio-dubbed pornography. It’s in this business, that he is first introduced to Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta).
Roy is a mob boss/dealer who gets his pornography shipments from Kuklinski’s lab. Upon seeing Kuklinski’s massive size and failing to phase him at gunpoint, Roy begins to think that he could use him. Roy assigns Kuklinski to put a homeless man out of his misery and the order is followed through without hesitation. Roy gave this task because the porn lab was shutting down and now he could hire a new hit-man. From then on, Richard Kuklinski served Roy and made lots of money that he used to provide for his new family.
As the film progresses, we see Kuklinski at different stages in his life. We also get to see many of his facial hair choices during these stages. Early on in his career, he was faced with a moral decision. He had just killed Marty Freeman (James Franco), a man who had upset Roy, and was about to flee the scene, until he noticed a naked woman in the closet. It turns out that she was only 17 and Kuklinski let her live because he doesn’t kill women. As they exited the building, Kuklinski meets “Mr.Feezy” (Chris Evans), who casually tell him to get away quick, as he had just planted a bomb in the building to kill Freeman. This is the first time the two men meet, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Later that day, Kuklinski is put on leave by Roy for not killing the young girl and is out of a job. While this allows him time to spend with his family, Kuklinski still misses the money and the killing. Eventually, he runs into Mr. Freezy in his Ice Cream Truck and the two begin an odd partnership. Mr. Freezy had frozen all his victims and taught the process to Kuklinski. The two worked as a team for a while, until Roy got news of it. Now, “The Iceman” has targets coming at him and his family from every direction and he must find away to stay alive doing what he does best.
Michael Shannon IS this movie. While Chris Evans, Ray Liotta and even Winona Ryder are great, Michael Shannon is phenomenal. Standing at a bulky 6’3″, Shannon towers over the other actors and intimidates everyone, including the audience. He has cold, lifeless eyes paired with a stare that is sure to haunt you in your sleep. He doesn’t say too much, but when he speaks, it’s always important. When he is angry, it’s utterly terrifying. The way he commands your attention with his yelling and stares is amazing. He’s an amazing actor that does this role justice.
The supporting cast of this film are also very good. Ray Liotta is back to playing a mobster, which I’m completely fine with because he does it so well! Captain America… I mean, Chris Evans gives a chilling and unique performance as a hitman who freezes people. It’s not a role you’d assume that America’s Hero would choose, but he does a pretty good job! It’s also nice to see Winona Ryder in a film again. She’s a talented actress who brings a few great scenes to this film. Together, these actors and actress help elevate this movie another level that it really needed.
With this bizarre, but true story, I was expecting a bit more from the film. We only see one or two hits and then the story turns into more of a drama. It’s an odd direction to take in a film that focuses on a hitman who freezes people. The film spends a lot of unnecessary time with Liotta’s character and his affairs. I get that he’s the boss, but Kuklinski is nowhere in sight and we are only getting information that is barely relative to Kuklinski. Another big issues with this film is its’ pace. For a film that lasts an hour and Forty-Five minutes, it feels like it’s over two hours long. Combine that with more drama than action and you get a somewhat dull film.
Although the film could have been a lot better, Michael Shannon is still fantastic and makes this film worth the watch and makes it worthy of a recommendation. He was amazing in Take Shelter and he gives another stellar performance here. With the help of Liotta, Evans and Ryder, it’s a bit easier to recommend this movie too. There isn’t a whole lot of action or killing, but during the times that there are, the film is very interesting. It does focus a lot on Kuklinski’s family and moral decisions, so just keep that in mind if you’re considering watching this film. The story is still fascinating and it’s an interesting look at an interesting man. An interesting man played wonderfully by Michael Shannon… I can’t emphasize enough how great and scary he is… If you’re not interested in Shannon or the story, this is not the film for you.If you are a fan of his or this story and Shannon, then this film is definitely for you!
The Iceman Trailer