Film review | The Iceman – Michael Shannon’s New Jersey family man is a cold-hearted Mafia killer

A true-crime biopic in the GoodFellas and Donnie Brasco mould, this violent underworld thriller tells the grisly story of Richard ‘The Iceman’ Kuklinski, who managed to sustain a dual life as both suburban family man and cold-hearted Mafia contract killer for some 30 years until the cops finally nabbed him in 1986.

It ought to be a compelling story, but despite the presence of the magnetic Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter) in the lead and spot-on period detail, director Ariel Vromen’s film fails to fully come alive.

There is an awful lot of death, though, as Kuklinski stabs, shoots and cyanide sprays (yes!) his victims down the years. Yet the killings quickly begin to bleed into one another and it’s sometimes hard to sort out the identities and roles of everyone involved – lurking beneath a bristling array of authentic-looking 1970s ’taches and sideburns you may discern James Franco, David Schwimmer, Ray Liotta and Chris Evans, the latter playing ice-cream-van-driving hitman Mr Freezy, Kuklinski’s sometime rival and partner.

As for Kuklinski himself, he remains a blank, notwithstanding nods to his abusive childhood. Shannon is chillingly scary, but we never comprehend how he could coolly dispatch victim after victim while his wife (Winona Ryder) remained at home with their daughters in New Jersey, oblivious to all the carnage and convinced her husband was a currency trader.

In cinemas from Friday 7th June.

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