Michael Shannon delivers a powerfully haunting performance as a stone cold killer unleashed in The Iceman.
Emerging from the darkness, Michael Shannon looks directly into the camera. His is one of the more unique faces to grace the screen, the type of canvas that - like Peter Lorre and Christopher Walken before him- no make-up artists could conjure.
In his portrayal of infamous hit-man Richard Kuklinski, it is the face of a killer hardened not by the over 100 kills linked to his name, but by the loss of his family who moved on when his true nature was revealed. One of the most interesting things about Kuklinski that director Ariel Vromen taps into is the duality of this monster, the husband and father of two daughters that is the flipside of mafia captain Roy DeMeo’s (Ray Liotta) killing machine.
Shannon portrays both sides convincingly. Above all else, The Iceman rests on the power of one hell of a performance from Shannon, with this monster of an actor playing a monster of a man with frightening intensity yet also with a disarming tenderness towards his family.
A strong supporting cast of well-known actors hiding under a sea of wigs and facial hair step up to Shannon’s lead. Ray Liotta proves to be one of the few actors who can stand toe-to-toe with Shannon in the intensity stakes; Chris Evans is disturbingly funny as eccentric hit-man Mr. Freezy (the details of the name to grizzly to describe); Winona Ryder reminds us of those dramatic chops before scandal engulfed her career; and Steffen Dorff is powerfully moving in a cameo role as Kuklinski’s younger (yet equally blood thirsty) brother.
Vromen unflinchingly takes us into the world that these killers, thieves and junkies inhabit. We witness the death, shudder at the grit, and are engrossed by these characters that could kill or be killed at any given moment.
For Kuklinski this world is a place of sanctuary, where his unquenchable thirst for murder reigned. When Shannon reappears from the darkness at the films conclusion with no family to protect or with no target to hunt, on display is a man whose soul has turned pitch black, the product of an exceptional actor portraying a chillingly evil man.