Unfortunately, there’s no Academy Award for Best Casting. Because if there was, The Iceman would have blitzed any competition. If you want an almost-1950s-era-all-American-Dad, with more than a hint of menace and balls out absolute bat shittery, you want Michael Shannon. Which is why his casting deserves more credit than the direction and screenplay for all the best parts of The Iceman.
Shannon plays Richard Kuklinski, an almost-1950s-era-all-American-Dad, with more than a hint of menace and balls out absolute bat shittery. When the movie opens, his source of income is copying porno films for local small time gangster Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta). Soon, he’s dating, and not too much later married to, Wynona Ryder’s Deborah. Sidenote re. Wynona Ryder… You still definitely would. When Liotta shuts down the porn dubbing operation, Shannon takes the opportunity to secure a bump in pay by becoming Liotta’s go to hit man. You see, it turns out Richard Kuklinksi is a sociopath and feels absolutely no emotion, guilt or remorse.
After a decade or so of top notch service, Shannon is put on the reserve bench. Liotta’s bumbling off sider, played surprisingly awesomely by David Schwimmer, has brought a little too much heat their way and they all need to lay low. Only problem is, Shannon’s wife and two daughters have become accustomed to a certain quality of life that he feels like they deserve to keep. So Shannon hooks up with a local ice cream / hit man played by Chris Evans. Their partnership leads to plenty of money and their body disposal methods lead to the nickname given to Kuklinksi by the media which leads to the title of the film.
The Iceman wrings most of its drama, not from the killings and violence, but form constantly showing the juxtaposition between Kuklinski the killer and Kuklinksi the family man. His merciless acts of murder are jarring by themselves, but when the next scene shows how completely and how easily he tricks his family into thinking he’s a good man, he becomes all the more terrifying.
The movie has a cool way of dropping bits and pieces of Kuklinki’s back story in here and there, never resorting to shoehorning in a flash back, or massive expositional monologue, or clunky confession where Kuklinksi tearfully tells his origin story. Instead, the audience is given little fragments over the course of The Iceman that eventually give you a solid idea of who and why Richard Kuklinksi is.
>The Iceman is based on an HBO documentary called The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hitman. If it didn’t sound fascinating before, watching the dramatized version has made me more than just a little stoked to see the doc.