Instead, the focus rests almost exclusively on Kuklinski, who comes to vivid and, therefore terrifying, life through Michael Shannon's amazing performance. As Kuklinski's mob boss Roy Demeo says about him, there's no emotion in his eyes, they're totally cold. And yet, the intense focus on Kuklinski teases out his schizophrenic behavior: doting on his wife and two daughters, heartless with everyone else. One flashback suggests one reason for a total lack of empathy, but I wish more insights were offered to the man who lived, from the outside, a conventional life in New Jersey.
Based on Anthony Bruno's book "The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer" and James Thebaut's 1992 HBO documentary "The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer," Vromen's film begins in 1964 and moves efficiently through the decades with incidents taken from Kuklinski's relationships and methods. The title comes from his habit of freezing bodies to throw off investigations into exact times of death.
This intriguing, disturbing film boasts a superb and sly sound design by Haim Mazar. Without overwhelming or even defining events, low level music and sound signal Kuklinski's increase of tension and his shift toward violence. The almost subconscious effect by Mazar showcases the contribution of sound when used brilliantly. Similarly, director of photography Bobby Bukowski lights scenes to add depth and complexity to the unsettling atmosphere. In fact, every element of "Iceman's" art direction contributes, making this a coherent immersion in a deeply disconcerting character study.
Each of the supporting actors' finely tuned performances suggests Vromen is a superb actors' director. These sometimes nearly unrecognizable actors include: Winona Ryder as wife Deborah, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, and Stephen Dorff. "The Iceman" is appropriately chilling and haunting. At a Landmark Theatre.