Directed by Ariel Vromen, the haunting tale features an intriguing ensemble cast that includes Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, and, Danny Abeckaser.
The film debuted at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday and has already earned a number of favorable reviews.
"'The Iceman' is a vivid evocation of a remorseless sociopath sustaining a double life as a contract killer and devoted family man," says David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter. "Gritty, gripping and unrelentingly intense, Ariel Vromen's film boasts richly detailed character work from an ideal cast. But the driving force is Michael Shannon in the title role, showing yet again that he can explore the darkness within like few actors working today."
"The unexpected pleasure of 'The Iceman' is the stealth excellence of its ensemble, studded with tasty turns from actors cast against type and rendered almost unrecognizable by heavy shades, handlebar mustaches, longish hair and other '60s and '70s accoutrements," says Justin Chang of Variety.
"It's a grisly and unedifying tale in which a somewhat typecast Michael Shannon gives a stolid, unsmiling performance as the psycho killer himself - truly, the guy who put the 'dead' in 'deadpan,'" says The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.
Kuklinski, who grew up in a severely abusive household, killed his first victim at age 14. In his 20's he became involved with the Gambino crime family and evolved into a full-fledged hit man. By the time he was arrested in 1986, he had killed over 200 people and earned the nickname "The Iceman" after freezing the bodies of several victims so that the time of their murder could not be determined.
When Kuklinski died in 2009, the New York Times noted that his "lust for publicity nearly matched the blood lust he displayed..."
In addition to "The Iceman," two other high-profile films have explored the murder's chilling life. HBO released two documentaries on Kuklinski, "The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992) and "The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman" (2001). "The Iceman Tapes" (which is based on Anthony Bruno's book of the same name) served as the basis for the film's screenplay.
"The Iceman" is set to hit theaters later this year.