The Iceman is based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski, a New Jersey hitman said to have killed at least 100 (and possibly more than 250) people over thirty years until 1985. Besides his prolific trail of carnage, the most interesting aspect of The Iceman is its take on Kuklinski’s personality and its portrayal by Michael Shannon.
Shannon’s Kuklinski deeply loves his wife and daughters – and is psychotically indifferent to the fate of any other human (even his own). To him, killing another person is as unencumbered by morality or emotion as delivering a pizza or fixing a muffler. His “Iceman” nickname derives from his practice of freezing his victims and dumping their bodies months later – so investigators could not fix the time of death. But “Iceman” just as aptly applies to Kuklinski’s fearlessness and utter lack of empathy.
Ever since Shotgun Stories, Michael Shannon has been one of my favorite actors. He’s perfect for Kuklinski, because Shannon can combine impassivity and intensity like no one else. He can also use his hulking frame to enhance his menace (or, in Mud, his goofiness).
His fellow actors - including Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer - do a fine job. I particularly enjoyed Chris Evans as fellow hitman Mr. Freezy, who works out of his ice cream truck. Because I don’t watch superhero movies, I was unaware that Evans has recently starred as Captain America in The Avengers and as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies.
The Iceman is a solid true-life crime movie with an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.