Captivating character study profile of a notorious hitman who lived a double life with his wife and daughters who he dearly cherished. The Iceman is a perfect vehicle for Michael Shannon who is cementing himself as one of the more compelling character actors, here as the cold and detached Richard Kuklinski. The supporting roles are well-cast. Winona Ryder is the unsuspecting wife, and she has captured perfect 1960’s and 70’s housewife naiveté – her performance is simply fantastic in body language, vocal pitch and general motherly nuance. Ray Liotta is, of course typecast but very good, as the a**hole mobster who propositions Kuklinski to enter a life of crime (the first assignment is to knock-off an anonymous bum). You can barely recognize Chris Evans and David Schwimmer in their dirtbag roles, so hats off to the hair and make-up department.
“The Iceman” is one of those alluring crime movies about really, really bad guys. I did, however, think something was oddly too restrained about the film. I never got the sense that Kuklinski killed over 100 people as stated in the final epilogue – it feels like maybe he killed a dozen. You wouldn’t forecast that body count, not unless you had read the press notes or knew the meaning behind the legacy of the title which itself was an early 1990’s HBO documentary “The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman.”
Kuklinski began in dubbing and bootlegging porno films, and left it because he was looking to bring home more income to please his wife (when there’s no money, she’s hard to please). Ryder, as Mrs. Deborah Kuklinski , is one of those complaining wives at a time when hectoring wife was a social role norm. Believing her husband has a Wall Street job in currency trading, she is only pleased when her husband’s income is flush.
Sparking dangerously is Shannon’s ability to portray a pathological matter-of-fact family provider who terminates targets and collects the money. His soft spot is women and children whom he refuses to harm, and has a fall-out with his boss because of it. From there, he teams up with Mr. Freezy (Evans), who gets his name because he stores bodies in his ice cream truck.
Please catch this movie if you reckon with the kind of crime thrillers we got back in the 1990’s. This is satisfying old-school docudrama. Don’t miss out on my film cousins mentioned below either.
94 Minutes. Rated R.
STREET DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / COLD LATE NIGHT
Film Cousins: “State of Grace” (1990); “Light Sleeper” (1992); “Little Odessa” (1994); “Donnie Brasco” (1997).