The true story of hitman-for-hire Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski (Shannon), a nickname he gained for freezing his victims to help disguise their time of death, the movie charts his life from first getting mixed up with the mob until his arrest some 100+ murders later.
Maintaining a healthy family life, with his wife and kids none the wiser of his shady secret, the cold and clinical Kuklinski knocks off anyone from a bar fight foe to the leader of a rival gang, all without a second thought, but while his rise through the ranks is impressive, at times it doesn’t really feel like the film is really going anywhere.
With the central story moving forward in a very linear fashion, none of the side-plots fully develop; we don’t actually spend that much time with Kuklinski’s family or delve into his psyche. The Iceman lacks punch, which the true story of a serial killer should have in spades, as – and pardon the pun – if you go into the film cold and don’t know it’s based on real life, you’ll find yourself thinking “Where’s this film going?”
Normally when a film opens with based on real life you laugh it off because it’s a silly horror movie, but here it would have added real gravitas to the narrative for those who are familiar with Kuklinski’s story.
Even though it’s lacking flair, The Iceman is still an enjoyable and very polished film. The acting is superb and Michael Shannon is as stone cold as they get, epitomising the fearsome killer. It’s the same old, same old for Ray Liotta in another shady role as the pleasant surprises instead come in the form of Chris Evans and David Schwimmer; the former playing one of Kuklinski’s associates and the latter a mousy son of the local mob boss.
The Iceman is dark and gritty but there’s not enough excitement or tension to really pull you in. I felt very passive to the action, while Kuklinski’s strict nature around his family didn’t feel as natural as perhaps he should have been.