"A thoroughly enjoyable, original and thrilling production..."
The Iceman takes its title from the alias of infamous serial killer, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), which refers to his trademark freezing of his victims in order to mask the time of death. The film tracks the true story of Kuklinski, from his beginnings in the porn industry to his success as a contract killer for the mob, all the while playing the part of devoted husband and loving father to two girls. However, after leaving a witness at the site of one of his murders, Kuklinski’s career starts to unravel and, with that, his sense of stability and control.
Shannon exposes a deeply troubled man who both scares and repulses us and yet elicits sympathy from the audience simultaneously. Director Ariel Vromen reveals Kuklinski’s human side in his depiction of a man who loves his family and would do anything to protect them. In this sense, Kuklinski seems a twisted antihero of sorts, which is quite clearly a testament to Shannon’s acting, who does a fantastic job portraying this complex cold-blooded killer. Furthermore, Shannon is supported by a strong cast, with Winona Ryder as his wife, Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer the mobsters, and Chris Evans as fellow contract killer, ‘Mr. Freezy’, all of whom provide noteworthy performances.
There is a simplicity and subtlety to the film and script which lets the story speak for itself, making it all the more powerful. Furthermore, the progression in time in the film is captured by the contemporary fashion -- costume designer Donna Zakowska successfully transports the audience back to the late 60s and 70s, adding to the realism of the film. (This, and Shannon’s evolving facial hair.) However, this simplicity also proves to be one of the drawbacks of the film, albeit a minor one. At times it all seems a little too easy; the complete divorce between Kuklinski’s loving family role and his sociopathic tendencies doesn’t quite add up, feeling altogether a little too ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Although Kuklinski appears far from perfect, you can’t help but wonder if the film has simplified a more complex relationship between husband and wife in order to emphasize the difference between his two, very separate lives. That said, this is merely something to consider, especially as it is this contrast between his murderous side and his family life which makes his character so intriguing.
The Iceman is a thoroughly enjoyable, original and thrilling production. Unfettered by the excessive use of gadgets or pyrotechnics unlike many modern thrillers, the film’s beauty lies in its reliance on a straightforward yet chilling story and strong performances, reflected in the carefully shot and crafted cinematography. Furthermore, this contribution to cinema makes for a nice diversion from to this summer’s big budget blockbusters which are currently dominating the film scene. Vromen reminds us that a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to film can be just as effective if not more so than some of the extravagant productions of his contemporaries.