The Iceman made its U.S. debut at the Telluride Film Festival in 2012, my first year volunteering at the prestigious affair. Despite being able to see 11 films, The Iceman was one I missed – much to my disappointment.
Turns out, I didn’t miss much. When I saw the film had been added to Netflix, I was ecstatic and immediately added it to my “To-Watch” list. My initial interest stemmed from the awesome cast and interesting storyline (I had never heard of Kuklinski before).
The Iceman is about Richard Kuklinski, an infamous serial killer/hit man whose specialty was freezing the bodies and then thawing them to obscure the time of death. If you aren’t familiar with Kuklinksi, you definitely won’t learn a lot from this flick. The real Kuklinksi was known as a cold, reviling man. The Iceman’s Kuklinski (played by Michael Shannon) was easy to sympathize and connect with, despite his violent career. A simple glorification of a violent mobster hit man.
After seeing Michael Shannon play the paranoid and frantic family man in Take Shelter, I was looking forward to see what he would bring to this role. Shannon proved himself again and played the rigid and soulless degenerate superbly. He gave a solid performance – as did all of the other cast members.
Thus my main issue with the film was not the acting, but the consistent usage of flimsy, clichéd mobster/mafia film tropes. While the film attempted to use a noir aesthetic, it lacked conviction. Ultimately, it developed no further than a pathetic attempt at homage.
This is a shame, of course, because Kuklinski’s life was much more interesting than that of a simple hit man. It is believed he often fabricated much of his crimes and may not have even worked for some of the mob families he claimed to. Furthermore, his childhood had a profound and disturbing effect on him and ultimately formed him to be the soulless person he was. In fact, the psychological aspect of Kuklisnki alone could have made a much more interesting, original film.
All in all, I would say that this is one to stay away from. But if you’re as big of a Michael Shannon fan as I am, you probably won’t heed my warning. Yes, Shannon’s acting saved the film from being utter tripe but it overall is a forgettable, mundane attempt at mobster fare.
– Marcie Gainer