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The Iceman: a story of the infamous contract killer Richard Kuklinski and his decade-long killing spree

Before I ramble on about The Iceman, let me just preface that I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about upon stepping foot in the theater. So when it finally dawned on me that this was in fact a true story, about a man who hid the fact he killed hundreds of people from the people he held most near and dear without the slightest detection (OK maybe there were a few signs), let’s just say it all became way scarier.

That being said, up-and-coming director Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman is a horrifying story (like, there’s severed limbs and stuff!) starring Michael Shannon as the infamous Jersey City serial killer Richard Kuklinski. So if you’re not a fan of the uber-gory, way too real-looking, edge of your seat scary type-stuff, this one might not be for you.

And besides the fact Michael Shannon has the best poker face ever, his performance as Kuklinski is, well, killer! He takes on this cold-blooded character almost effortlessly. Telling everyone he’s a cartoonist for Disney (and later on, a currency speculator whatchamacallit) by day, he actually runs a pornographic film laboratory that’s on the fringes of a very highly-organized crime operation.

When mobster bossman Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta!) decides to shut down the laboratory, he foresees way bigger things for Kuklinski and the guys, hiring Kuklinski as one of his main hit men. But Kuklinski, being of Polish descent, doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the full-blooded Italians (oh yeah, David Schwimmer plays a guy named Josh!); Demeo is constantly testing him, you know, by making him murder random homeless people on the streets of NYC as an initiation, etc. So not your typical 9 to 5, but one single operation could sometimes rack in over $40,000, making it all seem worth it for Kuklinski.

But the money isn’t always a guarantee. Kuklinski finds himself needing more to support his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) and two daughters Anabel (McKaley Miller) and Betsey (Megan Sherrill). He turns to another acquaintance in the “business,” ice cream truck driver Mr. Freezy, played by Chris Evans (reinforcing the notion that all ice cream truck drivers are total creeps!). The two team up, and Demeo is certainly not happy about any of it, seeing the move as Kuklinski going behind his back. Which, if you know anything about mafia movies, you’d know there’s no pissin’ off the main guy without a severe reprimand.

But boy did Kuklinski really have everybody fooled the entire time. Despite his periodic anger outbursts and paranoia about his family catching on to what kinds of crimes he’s committed, 10 years of murders went on and no one ever suspected a thing. What’s odd is, that he really does have an affection for his family throughout the entire film, and never actually murders any women or children—just men–but still! At one point in the film there’s even a sense of him wanting to believe: while he’s off to kill off Marty Freeman (James Franco) for running his mouth, Freeman begs God for his life; Kuklinski tells him to pray louder, to convince him to believe…

This is a terrifying movie. Once the story really starts rolling, your hand will be in your hands; you will leave the theater disgusted in disbelief. Vromen captures not only the double life of this killer, but the decades in which they took place (there’s more where that sailboat shirt came from!). The cast, which is way too good for words—I mean, Ray Liotta!—really makes the entire movie possible. But it’s Michael Shannon’s role that really makes Vromen’s spectacularly made The Iceman worth a see.

(photo via The Reelist)

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.