During the 90s HBO aired a series of documentaries featuring interviews with Mafia contract killer Richard Kuklinski that was a peek inside pure evil and easily some of the best documentaries to date that they aired. While it’s a surprise it took this long that a film adaptation of his life would be made, the time has finally come with The Iceman featuring Michael Shannon in the lead role, but does it succeed in bringing the chilling real life story of this man to life?
The Iceman follows the rise of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski who goes from working as a porn lab tech to one of the most notorious contract killer in history. But as he tries to keep his family life and mob killing separate, circumstances and his own weaknesses threaten a terrible collision as the consequences of his choices finally catch up to him. If you have ever seen the documentary interviews with Kuklinski then you pretty much already knew the story but seeing it come to life in this film was just chilling. Usually with these types of films it hinges on just the script and performances, but here knowing the truth and hearing him tell the stories made this feel even more real. The always awesome Michael Shannon delivers a brilliant chilling portrayal of Kuklinski carrying this movie perfectly. The story does a good job of telling his story without trying to disguise him as some misunderstood character, but also letting us in on the toll it took on him once he lost the only thing he cared about. The rest of the cast do a great job with near unrecognizable David Schwimmer and Chris Evans playing against normal type and delivering some truly bad characters. Liotta is always great in this kind of role and not surprisingly shines here. Big props go to Stephen Dorff and James Franco for taking on some smaller but important roles to elevate this film. Despite everyone else being so good this never stops being Shannon’s show. He embodies Kuklinski about as much as someone who is not insane could and makes you believe that’s who he is. He has down his mannerisms and overall persona that takes what could have been a good movie to a great film.
If you have never seen the original interview tapes then this film will most likely not be as effective, but is still a great film. There are roles that people are born to play and while Kuklinski may not be the one you were born to play, Shannon sure makes you believe that. This film captures the time period and keeps it streamlined without a lot of useless information to create the true story of a man who was the embodiment of pure evil if there ever was one.