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Inspired by actual events, THE ICEMAN follows notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men. Appearing to be living the American dream as a devoted husband and father; in reality Kuklinski was a ruthless killer-for-hire. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.
USA TodayFull Review Good Shannon's restrained and mesmerizing portrayal, bolstered by an excellent offbeat supporting cast, makes for an edgy and compelling Mob yarn.
NY PostFull Review Average 'The Iceman' has its compensations, and the period details aren't bad for a low-budget picture. But the overall effect tends to be as chilly and monotonous as Shannon's demeanor as Kuklinski — a real disappointment.
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After growing up under the iron hand of an abusive father, Richard Kuklinski (MICHAEL SHANNON) is no stranger to violence. Of Polish descent, he is cold, tough as nails, and has an uncanny ability to stay calm in the midst of chaos. He's also determined to create a family that's nothing like the one he grew up in. So when in 1964 he marries his first and only love, Deborah Pellicotti (WINONA RYDER), he is fiercely protective of her and the family they will build together.
There's something else that's unique about Kuklinski: he has a supreme ability to compartmentalize the polarized worlds he lives in. It's a trait first glimpsed in his decision to hide his occupation from Deborah. To support her and their young baby, he dubs porn movies that are distributed by the Mafia. But he tells Deborah he works in animation. What she doesn't know won't hurt her. It's also seen in the hyper-violent tendencies Deborah knows nothing about, like his deft slaughter of a bar patron who speaks disrespectfully of Deborah.
Kuklinski's career prospects expand when mob boss Roy Demeo (RAY LIOTTA) and his minions Josh Rosenthal (DAVID SCHWIMMER) and Mickey Scicoli (JOHN VENTIMIGLIA) barge into Kuklinski's workplace as he is leaving one night. Their plan is to exact a harsh punishment on the Pole for being late on a delivery, even though they fudged the deadline at the last minute. But Kuklinski surprises them -- and impresses Demeo -- by standing his ground and showing he's more than capable of taking care of himself.
Recognizing that Kuklinski's talents can be better used in other ways than dubbing porn movies, Demeo taps him to be his personal hitman. For Kuklinski, who has another baby on the way, the better-paying job couldn't be more timely and the fact that it involves killing other human beings in the grisliest of ways is not an issue; he's already built a firewall between his work and his family life.
The new job soon pays off. The family's lifestyle improves drastically. They have a beautiful home and they can afford to send their two daughters to a wonderful private school. Deborah thinks her husband has landed a job on Wall Street, and he sees no reason to tell her otherwise.
Enter the 1970s, and the hitman profession is undergoing changes. That's when Kuklinski encounters Mr. Freezy (CHRIS EVANS), another hitman who poses as an ice-cream vendor by day and uses the freezers in his truck to store the bodies of his victims. Demeo has hired both men to carry out the same hit -- evidence that he doesn't trust either to do the job alone. Realizing that they can't trust Demeo in the changing landscape of the new decade, the unlikely duo teams up, figuring they'll do better together than alone.
Mr. Freezy's methods of dispensing with his victims are very different from Kuklinski's. After killing them using anything from explosives to cyanide, Mr. Freezy stores the corpses in his ice-cream truck, dumping them months or years later to confuse the police about when and where the murders occurred. By collaborating, Kuklinski and Mr. Freezy build up quite a business while managing to keep their operation secret.
But as the 1970s roll into the 1980s, things begin to sour between Kuklinski and Mr. Freezy. The various crime families are now handling their executions through internal sources and aren't hiring the two freelancers as frequently. Money is tight, even in the business of murder. Can Kuklinski adapt and keep his family intact? Something has to give, but what?