The historical background for “The Iceman” is the killing spree of hitman Richard Kuklinksi, a hired gun for the Gambino crime family from the fifties through the eighties, and the droll suburban existence he lived during that time with his clueless family. As Kuklinski, Michael Shannon easily fits the creepy lunatic role, but Winona Ryder’s bland turn as the killer’s wife epitomizes the lifeless trajectory of this cold portrait. When the movie begins, Kuklinski has already displayed his psychopathic tendencies by killing people when he’s off-duty. For a while, director Ariel Vromen manages to hold some interest by following Kuklinski as he steadily develops confidence in himself. But his screenplay offers hardly any depth beyond the surface level insanity.
Through it all, Shannon wears a crazy-eyed expression that’s effectively chilling, but the amalgam of brutal incidents that populate the movie sacrifice depth for redundancy. By its end, “The Iceman” is less about a killer than his killings, and as a result comes dangerously close to sympathizing with his sadistic impulses. Criticwire grade: C [Eric Kohn]