Michael Shannon freezes the blood as the ruthless real-life hitman Richard â€śThe Icemanâ€ť Kuklinski â€“ or, Richie to his wife and kids â€“ in this respectable entry into the inundated, yet ever increasing canon of mafia-flavoured crime thrillers.
Premise-wise, weâ€™re in familiar territory: a criminal struggles to maintain a law-abiding faĂ§ade with his family as his atrocities mount. Thankfully, however, what The Iceman lacks in originality it compensates for with an impressive central performance. Shannon (who, despite a rather extensive list of feature film appearances, is still probably best known for his work on HBOâ€™s Boardwalk Empire) is suitably compelling as the eponymous killer who racked up a purported three-figure body count between the 1950s and 1980s.
Unnervingly stoic in the face of a gun barrel, Shannon is never anything other than utterly convincing as a man whoâ€™ll murder without hesitation. In one standout scene, he mocks a victimâ€™s instinctive call for help by encouraging them to keep on praying to God. With no celestial intervention forthcoming, he chillingly surmises: â€śIâ€™m not feeling anythingâ€ť.
As with many films that choose to depict recorded events, The Iceman suffers from the familiar double-edged sword of wanting to tell an engaging true life story without taking dramatic liberties. As a result, there is nothing here that hasnâ€™t been seen before – all the tropes of a mobster drama are present and correct: threats are made against Kuklinskiâ€™s family, there is fallout over Kuklinskiâ€™s refusal to shoot a female witness (Kuklinski apparently had a â€śno children, no womenâ€ť rule; sounds familiar?), and, of course, Ray Liotta.
Kudos, then, to writer/director Ariel Vronmen who â€“ in possible recognition of this fact â€“ ensures that Shannon is seldom off-screen for long. In addition to Shannon, heâ€™s been able to secure an interesting supporting cast: Winona Ryder plays Kuklinskiâ€™s beleaguered wife, Chris Evans turns up as an almost-unrecognisable, heavily bearded partner-in-crime, and, best of all, David Schwimmer appears as a wonderfully oleaginous criminal underling.
Itâ€™s far from groundbreaking, but entirely watchable.
The Iceman will be released in cinemas on 7th June 2013.
Watch the trailer for The Iceman here.