Less than a month since we saw him clashing with Superman in Man of Steel, Michael Shannon returns to the screen, playing another creepy bad guy in The Iceman. The actor delivers a suitably chilling performance as real-life New Jersey hitman Richard Kuklinski, who is believed to have killed more than 100 people in the 60s and 70s before being carted off to prison.
Kuklinski’s modus operandi – of killing his targets, then freezing them and storing them so it becomes impossible to determine the date and time of their death – earned him that infamous nickname from which the film gets its title. But that isn’t even the reason he was such a curious figure.
Kuklinski successfully led a double life, hiding his contract killer identity from his wife (Winona Ryder) and two daughters whom he deeply loved. You’d think they might suspect something when he goes bonkers and destroys half the house after a minor argument, or when he puts all their lives at risk speeding after another driver who abused his wife.
The film itself is nicely bathed in dark hues and wears a somber mood throughout, but from double crossings to internal gang rivalry, it ticks off all the boxes of a traditional Mob movie, never going anywhere particularly new. There are cameos from Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Chris Evans and James Franco, but it’s Shannon himself, all clenched jaw and bug-eyed, whose icy cold, detached portrayal of Kuklinski is the big draw here.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Iceman; an average film, uplifted by a terrific performance.