The Iceman

May 4, 2013 0 By Fans
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The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Release Year: 2012

Rating: 7.2/10 (945 voted)

Director: Ariel Vromen


The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Writers: ,

Loving husband. Devoted father. Ruthless killer.

Release Date:

Filming Locations: Downtown, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $10,000,000


Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Before production began, director Ariel Vromen shot a test scene with Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski and Michael Wincott as Robert Pronge. Shannon kept his role in the feature version, while Chris Evans was cast as Robert Pronge. See more »

User Review

Decent gangster flick, minus the charm and depth of Goodfellas

Rating: 7/10

Iceman Ariel Vromen's The Iceman might succeed too well in depicting
its subject, mob hit-man Richard Kuklinski. I saw this film recently at
the Toronto International Film Festival, and was lucky enough to hear
Vromen's Q&A afterwards. This is a solid gangster movie if you're an
aficionado of the genre, but because it doesn't probe very far beneath
the surface of this true story, it fails to reach the status of a great
film. In fact, I think much of the audience left the theatre with the
impression that this was mostly a meditation on mental illness.

Kuklinski, Vromen told the audience, was a sociopath. As such, he had
no conscience, and was able to kill at least 100 people without
worrying too much about it. He also had no fear – hence the nickname
'iceman.' Michael Shannon, who plays Kuklinski, does such a good job of
keeping his face clenched like a fist that we can't really empathize
with him. The heart of the movie is supposed to be the dichotomy
between the icy hit-man who never gets rattled and has no remorse, and
the family man who only wants to take care of his family. Vromen told
us that this is something we can probably all identify with – the
hardnosed lawyer or business man who wrecks peoples' careers and
fortunes by weekday, and the loving husband and father by weekend, or
some variation on this theme. Vromen's somewhat incongruous examples
from his own life were playing backgammon one minute on an Israeli air
force base, and flying into Lebanon the next to witness all the horrors
of war – and going to law school by day and being a DJ at raves by
night. But Kuklinski seems so brutal, and so filled with rage that we
never really believe that he cares about his family all that much. In
fact there just isn't that much time devoted to scenes of Kuklinski
with his family, and so this central theme never really gets off the

Vromen seemed to want to portray Kuklinski as something more than a
sociopath, though, through certain scenes I won't discuss here, and
during the Q&A said that in fact, based on the outtakes he'd seen from
the HBO documentary, Kuklinskli could be quite charming. Between takes,
Vromen said, the real Kuklinski told the story of dropping his daughter
off at Catholic school and parking on one of the sisters' spots. She
told him not to do this, and he whispered that God had told him to do
this. Vromen wondered why HBO hadn't included this in the documentary,
which made me wonder why he didn't include it in his own film. Perhaps
Kuklinski was really charming, but this just doesn't come through in
the film, but would have made it far more interesting. In any case,
although I'm not a psychiatrist, it seems to me that it's common for
sociopaths to be charming in any case, so this doesn't make the
character much more complex. Tony Soprano, if we can compare fictional
characters with real ones, was a charming sociopath, but because he
somehow charmed us, and his psychiatrist, he was more compelling.

Another underdeveloped theme in the movie is that of chance and
religion. Early on Kuklinski tells his future wife (Winona Ryder, who
does a great job here) that he doesn't believe in chance. But he only
becomes a contract killer when Ray Liotta's character, minor mob-boss
Roy Demeo, sees how coolly Kuklinski reacts when attacked by another
gangster. Roy closes down Kuklinski's porn editing studio and gives him
a choice between unemployment and becoming a killer. Kuklinski thus
seems to some extent to have been forced into the job. He was 'just
trying to take care of his family.' This is pretty thin, though, and I
think we have to see him as fully responsible for his actions. As a
side note, when Vromen was asked by an audience member where the moral
center of the film was, he hemmed and hawed a bit and told us that the
moral of the story was that we should treat each other better. In other
words, he either didn't understand the question (despite his having
attended law school) or hadn't given much thought to what should have
been a central theme of the film. There are some hints (which again, I
won't discuss) that Kuklinski thinks that God is dead and so everything
is permitted, but again, this is never really developed, and so is not
very thought-provoking.

As I said at the beginning, this is, despite everything, a good movie
to watch if you've seen Goodfellas too many times to enjoy it anymore,
but want something similar. The Iceman, though, really does feel
derivative (not only in casting Liotta) of Goodfellas, but without its

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