The film stars Michael Shannon (The Missing Person (2009), Nocturnal Animals (2016)) as Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski, Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice (1988), Night on Earth (1991)) as Deborah Kuklinski, Chris Evans (Snowpiercer (2013)) as Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge, Ray Liotta (The New Mike Hammer TV Series (1984–1989), Something Wild (1986), Goodfellas (1990), Cop Land (1997), Hannibal (2001), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)) as Roy DeMeo, James Franco as Marty Freeman, David Schwimmer (NYPD Blue TV Series (1993–2005),American Crime Story TV Series (2016– )) as Josh Rosenthal, John Ventimiglia (Cop Land (1997), The Notorious Bettie Page (2005), The Sopranos TV Series (1999–2007), The Missing Person (2009) ) as Mickey Scicoli, Robert Davi (Gangster Wars (1981), City Heat (1984), Die Hard (1988)) as Leo Marks and Stephen Dorff as Joseph Kuklinski.
He had a Polish immigrant father who brutally beat both him and his brother (Dorff). The film barely touches on this. But we get the message and all it's implications quick. We see him cut the throat of a guy who just insulted his future wife after a game of pool. His own seriously fucked up brother Joseph (whom he never tells his wife about and he himself basically disowns) is serving time for raping and murdering a twelve-year-old girl.
|Joseph Kuklinski (Dorff)|
|Mickey Scicoli (Ventimiglia) lt. and Kuklinsky|
|Roy DeMeo (Liotta)|
|Josh Rosenthal (Schwimmer)|
Richard begins a new career. It's basically Murder, Inc. All goes well until Kuklinski lets a teenage girl (who was hiding in a closet) live after he whacks a porn photographer. Killing women and children is against his principles. Interestingly this taboo against killing women led to the demise of Vince Edwards in the Classic Film Noir Murder by Contract (1958). Anyway letting this witness live puts his ass in the wringer. DeMeo, cuts him off, puts him "on suspension." Kuklinski, after a few months in dry dock begins to go bonkers (if that's even possible). He gets into fights with his wife, and gets a serious case of road rage when he get's into a fender bender.
During his "active" period he'd met another hit for the mob Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge (based on Robert "Mister Softee" Pronge) who drives around in an ice cream truck. Pronge does contract assassinations for DeMeo's boss Leo Marks (Robert Davi).
I remember the ice cream truck coming around to my neighborhood as a kid growing up in Astoria, Queens in the 50s and 60s. Mr. Softee eventually replaced the Bungalow Bar ice cream trucks. Bungalow Bar sold hard ice cream, while Mr. Softee sold twistie soft ice cream and the trucks were modern self contained soda fountains. Hell, for all I know, I may have bought some ice cream from Pronge, lol.
Kuklinski remembers Pronge, seeks him out, and asks him if he could sub contract sort of "freelance" for him. Kuklinski will take all the chances on the hits and they'll split the disposal work and the profits. Part of the genius of the operation was that Pronge and Kuklinski would use the ice cream truck to transport the victims and the freezer at the ice cream warehouse to store the bodies for indefinite periods of time.
|Kuklinski lt., Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge ( Evans)|
Of course it all goes even more Noirsville. DeMeo eventually finds out about Kuklinski's self employment. Kuklinski kills Marks when he threatens his family, and when Kuklinski's daughter is hit by a hit and run driver he suspects it was done by Pronge, who he kills. In 1986 Kuklinski is caught up in a sting operation and put out of business.
It's Michael Shannon's film all the way, he plays a 180 from the somewhat dysfunctional alkie detective in The Missing Person. His is a powerful performance, he exudes dread, while displaying a normal perfectly composed exterior to his family and friends. If you saw this guy he plays on the sidewalk you'd cross to the other side ot the street. The rest of the cast is pretty much pitch perfect, with performances that punctuate the various sequences. The cinematography and production design recreates beautifully the grimey NY-NJ metro area of 60s,70s, 80s.
Screencaps are from the Millennium 2014 DVD. 7/10