Richard Leonard "The Iceman" Kuklinski (April 11, 1935 – March 5, 2006) was an American contract killer who worked for both the Newark's DeCavalcante crime family and New York City's Five Families of the American Mafia. The 6'5" 21.5 stone Kuklinski claimed to have murdered over 100 men between 1948 and 1986. Kuklinski claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 13. He lived what seemed an ordinary family life with his wife and children in the suburb of Dumont, New Jersey. His story has been documented in two documentaries, two biographies and a feature film. The feature film has been directed by Israel born film director Ariel Vromen and stars the superb Michael Shannon as Richie Kuklinski an actor that I have much admired since his appearance as Peter Evens in William Friedkin's horror/thriller Bug in 2006 a part he incidentally played in the play of the same name, described as ‘probing the blurry lines between paranoia and nightmarish reality, an intense mind bending psychological thriller.’
Based on the book The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold Blooded Killer by Anthony Bruno and the documentary The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer by James Thebaut the story of The Iceman (2012) starts around 1992 when we witness a heavily bearded man in what appears to be a prison where an unseen interviewer asks the question "Mr Kuklinski do you have regrets for the things you have done in your life?" Before he can answer we are taken back to the 24th April 1964, Jersey City, New Jersey and Richie Kuklinski is seated at a table in a restaurant opposite his future wife Deborah (Winona Ryder). Within 10 years he has two children, a big house in a decent neighbourhood and became, unbeknown to his family, a professional killer for Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) a member of the Gambino family who leads a gang suspected by the FBI of murdering between 100 and 200 people between 1973 and 1983. Its when Kuklinski’s killing spree connects with an ice cream van driver and fellow hit man called Mr Freezy (played by Captain America himself Chris Evans) that the bodies really seem to mount up, freezing to obscure the time of death and then months later dismembering them as a method of disposing of their victims.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler when I tell you that Richie Kuklinski was sentenced to two life sentences and thereafter never saw his family again! In 2006 aged 70 he died in Trenton State Prison New Jersey coincidently just before he was scheduled to testify at the trial of a Gambino family underboss. Its Shannon’s performance as one of the most prolific contact killers in American history that really carries this film and makes it a genuinely good reason to see it but I must say that the role would have benefitted from a little more in-depth character study.