Kuklinski's remarkable story is now told in a great, intense film called 'The Iceman', a title bestowed upon him by the media. The outstanding actor Michael Shannon plays the 'hit man'. For me this was inspired casting as the role required a special skill of trying to maintain a vision of normality while obviously dealing with several inner demons and Shannon has shown he can do this with ease, making Kuklinski a true monster of a killer yet with a vulnerability that made him human. As the character said in the film, all he really loved and cared about was his wife and two girls. Shannon, this major talent with such an interesting face first came to my attention properly with his brief and memorable appearence in Sam Mendes' 2008 movie 'Revolutionary Road', a 50's set drama that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Shannon received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his sterling effort. He next impressed me with his regular role on the sprawling HBO gangster epic 'Boardwalk Empire' playing what must be one of the strangest law enforcement officers ever in the history of television. He will soon be seen as General Zod in the new Christopher 'Dark Knight' Nolan produced Superman flick, 'Man Of Steel. A role incidentially which was originally played by Terence Stamp in the Christopher Reeve 70's 'Superman' and 'Superman II'
Unbeknown to Deborah, Kuklinski is involved with the porn side of entertainment and soon crosses paths with Roy Demeo, a local psychotic crime boss played with his usual assurance by Ray Liotta. With every word uttered you always feel that threat of violence is only a moment away and it is through Demeo that Kuklinski is introduced into the world of contract killing. The rules being that he kills exculsively for the mob boss and be paid handsomely for his work. And so his life of a professional 'hit man' begins in earnest and he proves to be a natural, using a wide variety of methods to end his victim's lives including using guns, knives, explosives, strangling and even posion. It was this varied manner of murder and mayhem that helped him to evade capture by the authorities for so many years as they had no idea these crimes were being committed by one man.
We follow Kuklinski from the 60's into the 70's, now living in a nice spacious house with a wife and two teenage daughters who are completely unaware their American Dream is being funded by his murderous activities. They just assume he is a successful businessman, which is borne out by his now wearing expensive suits. Other characters come into play including a rival hit man, Mr Freezy who uses an ice cream truck as a cover, played by Chris Evans. David Schwimmer (Ross from TV's 'Friends') puts in a strong serious turn and is almost unrecognisable as Josh Rosenthal, a pony tailed hood with a hilarious looking 70's type moustache who seems to be out for his own gains. This in turn causes problems which effect Kuklinski who suddenly finds himself out of work, and not allowed to sell his unique skill to any other buyers without retribution. The ubiquitous James Franco puts in a brief appearence in a chilling scene which displays how cold a killer Richard Kuklinski could be, even though he held himself to a code not to kill women or children. Stephen Dorff plays Kuklnski's younger brother Joey, in jail for a heinous crime of his own. This engrossing tale, which ends in the mid 80's involves dealings with the East Coast based Gambino crime family, double crosses and a lot of soul searching.
Director Ariel Vromen gives 'The Iceman' a gritty naturalistic feel which is very reminiscent of the classic crime thrillers of the 70's, with it's toned down colours and moody scenes in hallways, apartments, diners and of course the mean streets. He co-wrote the engaging screenplay with Morgan Land, based on a book ('The Iceman: The True Story Of A Cold Blooded Killer' by Anthony Bruno) and a documentary ('The Iceman Tapes: Conversations With A Killer'). The film held my attention from beginning to end and though I found myself obviously not rooting for Kuklinski, the killing machine that he was, I was engrossed enough to want to know what really made this man tick.
Here is a 3 minute interview with Michael Shannon discussing the role of Richard Kuklinski in 'The Iceman':
Here is a 3 minute interview with Ray Liotta discussing his role as mob boss Roy Demeo in 'The Iceman: