Based on the true story of the notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) infamous for not only being a brutally ruthless hitman but also how he stored his victim’s body. Given the nickname “Iceman” he would kill and freeze his victim’s body so to erase the time of death. A troubled childhood that left a tormented psychopath in the hands of the New Jersey Mafia, Kuklinski would kill as many as 200 people over several decades. However our merciless killer is living a double life and is also a devoted father and a loving husband to his wife Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder). How could a man be so coldblooded and be such a loving father and husband? Director Ariel Vromen explores the solemn and blood-soaked thriller that pulls you into the bitterly gritty and dark industrial freezer.
Before the killings we are introduced to Kuklinski on the first date with his future wife Deborah. An awkwardly shy and yet weirdly charming man, Vromen cunningly explores the inner psycho of our anti-protagonist. We begin to see the face of the stone cold look killer and Mafia Lord Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) in the ’60s noticed his cold-bloodedness and employs him as a contract killer. Unaware of their father and husbands double life, he maintains the wealthy life in the span over 20 years. Kuklinski quickly climbs up the criminal ranks by whacking victims with overdue debts, rival gangs or simply showing how tough and fearless he is by getting into bar fights. We get an authentic feeling of time lapse through the facial-hair of our killer, from the clean shaven amateur to the slick back hair professional with a goatee.
Michael Shannon’s portrayal as the contract killer Kuklinski, unfreezes the atmosphere with a horrifyingly aggressive vigour. It almost makes you wonder if Shannon would have made a great “Capo” in The Soprano crew. Although he has a tall exterior, intimidating physique and heartless cold stare he still somehow carries an intriguing charisma for a man with few words. Shannon’s portrayal is an intensely thrilling performance that will leave you shaken to the core. It seems that after a brilliant performance in the supporting role in Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road (2008), he’s now flaunting his abilities outside the confined space of supporting roles and moving gracefully on to lead roles, such as in Jeff Nichos’s Take Shelter (2011).
Even though the narrative is a forward moving linear plot with flashbacks of the past, I still felt like there wasn't much of the family. Rather little snippets of the Iceman losing his cool or moments when his double life was nearly exposed. It would have been fascinating to see the Kuklinski family in their day to day lives and perhaps more of the dedicated father and caring husband side. However Ariel Vromen does make the crime thriller and true chilling experience of violence and by utilizing Shannon’s unblinking stone gaze, this film will certainly send a chill through your body.