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Film / The Iceman

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"Hahaha. You slay me."

A 2012 docudrama detailing the life and crimes of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a New Jersey family man with a secret life as a hitman for the Mob in The '70s. His nickname came from both his nerves of steel and one of his kill techniques: freezing corpses for several months to disguise the time of death. Winona Ryder plays his unsuspecting wife Deborah, Ray Liotta is Roy DeMeo, the mid-level boss who recruits Kuklinski, and Chris Evans is rival shooter and occasional partner Robert "Mr. Freezy" Pronge.


This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Kuklinski and Roy, who wants his driver to respect his heritage and gives quarters to homeless men before ordering them killed.
  • American Accents: Joisey subdivision.
  • The Atoner: At the end, Kuklinski only expresses remorse for the fact that he let down his wife and daughters.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Kuklinski once he starts becoming successful as a hitman, especially in comparison to Pronge.
  • Badass Mustache:
  • Bad Humor Truck: Pronge works out of one, hence his nickname "Mr. Freezy."
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The film is based on Kuklinksi's prison confessions made after he was already serving a life sentence. There is little actual evidence that verifies any of Kuklinski's tall tales, making it much more likely that he was a simple psychopath who liked attention rather than the legendary assassin he claimed to have been.
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  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Kuklinski seems like a nice, quiet, overall sober man at first. Then we quickly discover that he's a cold-blooded killer prone to homicidal fits of anger.
  • Berserk Button: Do not insult Kuklinski's family.
  • Big Bad: Roy Demeo, the mob boss who initially hired Kuklinski and ends up opposing him by film's end.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with Kuklinski in his jail cell.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Pronge.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kuklinski kills a man for insulting him in a pool hall argument, and another Mafia boss hires Kuklinski to kill one of Roy's men just for manhandling him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: What first attracts Roy's attention to Kuklinski is his calm response to being threatened, so he dubs him "The Iceman".
  • Downer Ending: After being arrested for his crimes, Kuklinski is abandoned by his family and sentenced to two life sentences wracked in guilt. He decides to turn state witness on a Gambino family underboss, but dies in prison days before he can, with foul play being suspected.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Both Kuklinski and Pronge have families that love them.
    • Roy is apparently A Father to His Men and is deeply upset when his Co-Dragons end up dead, especially since he's forced to shoot the one he considered to be like family to him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kuklinski refuses to kill a 17 year old girl who saw him commit a murder. He co-conspirators are not so hampered.
    • Comes up again later when Pronge tries to make a deal with Kuklinski to murder each other's families so that the mob and the authorities can't use them against them. Needless to say, Kuklinski doesn't take the deal and kills Pronge not a minute after he suggests it.
  • Final Solution: When it appears that the Mob is bearing down on both of them, Pronge suggests to Kuklinski that they preemptively kill each other's families. Kuklinski's response is to kill Pronge on the parkbench where they were sitting.
  • He Knows Too Much: Kuklinski starts killing his friends for this reason. Except the one friend who sets him up with an undercover police officer.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Kuklinski shooting Pronge in a public park.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Deborah, in hindsight, although there are plenty of clues along the way that Kuklinski is no angel.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Roy tests Kuklinski's ability to be a Professional Killer by having him kill a random street bum.
  • Leave No Witnesses: After Kuklinski kills a pornographer, he finds a seventeen-year old girl hiding in his closet. He hauls her out onto the street and it's at that point he meets fellow hitman "Mr Freezy" Pronge for the first time, who tries to run her down with his ice cream truck. Kuklinski makes Pronge cease his pursuit at gunpoint, but when the two hitmen team up later on, the first thing Pronge shows him is the girl's body, which he has kept frozen for later disposal.
  • The Mafia
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Kuklinski and Pronge use pure cyanide to simulate the effects of a heart attack.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Kuklinski. Compounded by the fact that he's played by Michael Shannon.
  • No Social Skills: Kuklinski's first date with future wife Deborah is full of this.
  • Overcrank: Kuklinski's arrest in front of his wife. He's subdued by a dozen cops as she's bundled into a squad car. Includes a Long Last Look between them.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Psycho for Hire: Kuklinski and Pronge.
  • Serial Killer: Again, Kuklinski and Pronge. Neither man has qualms about killing, dismembering and freezing countless people. The film suggests that, if they weren't doing it for the mob, both men would be killing people for some other reason.
  • The Sociopath: Kuklinski, but even more so with Pronge, who goes out of his way to murder a 17-year old girl and casually offers to kill his partner's wife and children on the condition that he kills his family in return.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Kuklinski notices that the pornographer he's about to kill looks like he's praying. So he decides to delay killing him for a minute to mock his belief that god will save him, even giving him time to pray to god for help. When nothing happens, Kuklinski coldly shoots him.
    Richard Kuklinski: Looks like God's busy.
  • The "The" Title
  • Title Drop: Kuklinski gets his nickname when DeMeo sticks a gun in his face - and he doesn't flinch.
    "Man, you're cold as ice..."
    • Doubles as a Stealth Pun when you consider that Kuklinski "ices" his targets.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Kuklinski. Frequently.
  • Villain Protagonist: Richard Kuklinski, a hitman who killed over 100 people over the course of his career.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kuklinski and Pronge. They begin as rivals, then become partners, then...well, see Final Solution.
    • Pronge argues that, since he's German/Irish and Kuklinski is Polish, they'll never be accepted by the Italian mob and might as well partner up.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Halfway through the film, DeMeo orders Kuklinski to halt his contract work - and Kuklinski panics at the idea of losing his main source of income.


Example of: