As in many cases, the knowledge of an average man being a serial killer came to his family as a complete surprise. We’re talking here about Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a porn film lab technician of Polish descent, who in the 1960s received an offer from his mob boss and changed his career into that of a contract killer for the mafia. In The Iceman (2012), Ariel Vromen presents a portrait of a cold-blooded , emotionless man, who didn’t hesitate to kill more than 100 people, first for the mob, then, due to mafia politics, as a partner to psychotic multi-contract executor, Robert Pronge (Chris Evans). Working with Pronge, Kuklinski acquired a strategy of freezing his victims’ bodies, for which he gained his nickname, ‘The Iceman’. Looking at the shots of Shannon, however, with his empty eyes and ever-serious face, we come to the conclusion that the nickname may have a double meaning.
Kuklinski managed to present this straight face to his wife and two daughters as well, when he boldly claimed that he’d been working as a businessman through the years when he was in fact hired by the mob. His wife (Winona Ryder) and kids only found out the truth upon his arrest in 1986.
The movie altogether is quite cold and frugal in its execution. The murders are many and repetitive, but never shown up close – the mafia business is presented without unnecessary emotion, with not much being said about Kuklinki’s past having influenced his actions. An abusive father is briefly mentioned, however the extent to which he was tortured as a child, and the fact that, after leaving home, he grew up on the street, are not described. Neither is the terrifying truth that before becoming a professional serial killer, he murdered around 50 homeless people (starting with the killing of a teenage gang leader at the age of 13).
One thing that is missing, however, is an explanation of the circumstances of his arrest. Perhaps neither in reality the details are publicly known. We only know that his friend also involved in mafia’s business had something to do with Kuklinski’s final failure. Dry and factual, The Iceman gives you the shivers, and makes you wonder as to what is wrong with the world and with people, who become what Kuklinski became.