“The Iceman”is a genuinely chilling movie. It is dark and moody with some frightening scenes that will remain in your memory forever. Although the production value is not as high, as far as crime movies go, I would put it in a category with “Black Mass” and “Goodfellas.”
The story follows the career of true-life contract killer, Richard Kuklinski, who is known for having killed over 100 men. His personal code will not allow him to kill women or children.
One particular scene in the movie makes this taboo of his very clear when he enters the apartment of a child abuser, played by James Franco. After giving his victim time to pray before putting two bullets through his heart with a derringer, he is distracted by a noise coming from a closet. There he finds a girl crouching in fear.. Any hitman knows that witnesses must be eliminated, but Kuklinski can’t bring himself to violate his code and rushes the girl out of the apartment. His partner, waiting for him outside in a “Captain Freezy” Ice Cream truck gives chase to the fleeing girl, but Kuklinski stops him declaring, “I don’t kill women and children.”
There is justification for this code . He’s not a loner, but a family man with a house in the suburbs, a devoted wife played by Wynona Ryder, and two teenage daughters. His family adores him since they are totally unaware of his true profession, believing him to be a Financial Consultant.
Of course, Kuklinski doesn’t kill strictly for money. He kills anyone who gets in his way and although he is soft spoken and rarely shows emotion, he has a violent temper responsible for his first killing in an alley outside a pool hall and one near kill when he gets into a fender-bender with his wife and daughters in the car. The driver in the other car hurls curses at him and his whole family. This sets off Kuklinski’s hair-trigger temper and he chases the offending driver through the city with his loved ones screaming for him to stop the car. A close call with a yellow cab brings him to his senses. His wife and children cannot believe their wonderful husband/father was capable of such rage.
Actor Michael Shannon plays Kuklinski with tremendous skill. His six-foot four stature is imposing but the chiseled features of his stoic face hide a seething fury behind a concrete mask and anyone dumb enough to “poke the bear” will suffer his wrath. He is a throwback to a time of ruthless warriors; a Viking without a sword or one of the Mongol hoard without a horse. Only his wife and children are immune.
In the end, he is preparing cyanide sandwiches for a mark and, as a diversion, he feeds some of the poison to a stray cat. When he climbs into his car with his wife, he sees that the cat is still alive and suddenly realizes he had been supplied phony cyanide by undercover cops. His whole world is about to come to a crashing end.
Shannon has so completely made this character his own that I cannot picture any other actor in this role, perhaps the late great Gene Tierney, but no one else. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars! A must see for any crime film lover.