In 1992, HBO released the documentary ‘The Iceman; Confessions Of A Mob Hitman’. It focused on Richard Kukilinski, a notorious mob enforcer with a staggering body count. It acted like a confessional, and his admissions were chilling. He had no regard for human beings except for his wife and two daughters who he deeply regretted hurting. It was the only time any hint of emotion showed on his face.
Kuklinski's 's split persona was the most captivating ascpect; doting husband and father, and vicious killer (his family were unaware of his activities).
This duality would provide inspiration for David Chase while creating The Soprano's, and it seemed destined to become a cinematic adaptation, which finally resulted in 2012's 'The Iceman' directed by Ariel Vromen.
And while it may seem like a mob movie on the surface, Kuklinski's psychopathic behavior pushes the film into serial killer territory.
Michael Shannon portrays Kukilinski and he proves the perfect choice. Shannon is an actor of frightening intensity, and he nails the tortured dichotomy of a man who fails to balance his two worlds.
The film also boasts an impressive supporting cast (Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans to name a few). But ‘The Iceman’ is hurt by its poor pacing. It feels like a mad dash from his humble beginnings to his eventual capture, so the film's heavy lifting is left to Shannon, whose face and gravelly voice espouse sheer dread.
The film remains watchable; the scenes of Kuklinksi's mayhem and disposal of bodies has a grisly panache, whether he’s slicing a foe’s throat or chopping up bodies in a meat locker (the moniker ‘Iceman’ came from the freezing of his victim bodies to disguise their time of death).
But one feels there’s a missed opportunity to truly give a scope to his horrific acts (he’s estimated to have killed over 100 people) and his tortured childhood, which helped shape his sociopathic nature.
But for fans of grisly material and of Shannon in general, ‘The Iceman’ is worth a viewing. Just don’t expect it to fully pierce this human monster’s frozen heart.
The Iceman was released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 3rd and is currently playing 'on demand' on select cable networks.
Directed by Ariel Vroman
Starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta and Chris Evans.
Distributed by Millennium Films
Running time 105 minutes