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Richard Kuklinski was a devoted husband, a loving father...and a ruthless killer. A decade after HBO last visited him in prison, the convicted murderer, who freely admits having whacked more than 100 people in cold blood, takes viewers back inside his cold, calculating mind. In this follow-up to America Undercover's 1992 film The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer, Kuklinski provides all-new insights about his exploits as one of the Mafia's most notorious assassins...and reveals some shocking confessions for a number of previously unsolved murders.Written by
A bone-chilling must-watch for fans of real life monsters.
The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Hit-man is a two-part documentary chronicling the life of one Richard Kuklinski, a businessman to his family, and New York's most notorious hit-man to the dark underside of the city. Early on in the film, a nameless and faceless narrator explicitly states that the purpose of the film is to get inside the mind of Kuklinski and attempt to uncover some of the unsolved murders still haunting the authorities. It does this largely through a series of interviews with the man himself as he answers a series of questions about his motivations, feelings, and the grisly details of his crimes. Don't let the thought of interviews put you off, though. This documentary grips you with an ice-cold hand from start to finish.
It is difficult to reconcile any preconceived notions of the image of a hit-man with this average, balding, middle-aged man, sitting there in a bright, autumn-colored sweater, but his eyes leave no doubt in the viewer's mind that this man is a killer, staring at the off-screen interviewer with a bone-chilling coolness that shows exactly why he was nicknamed, the Iceman. Throughout the course of the documentary, the interviewer asks questions such as how he feels about killing, or how he killed a certain person, and Kuklinski answers with such a blunt honesty that you simply don't want to stop watching. At one point, he tells the interviewer about how he left his house on Christmas eve, killed a man who owed him money, and came back to prepare his children's presents for Christmas the next day. When asked how he felt about this, Kuklinski replies only with, "I was annoyed I couldn't get the damn wagon together."
After seeing so many Hollywood bad guys and sensationalized, TV gangsters, watching the Iceman slowly and thoroughly explain his murders is like the difference between watching a Yogi Bear cartoon and watching a real-life bear at the zoo from behind a thin pane of glass. His
words leave behind such a cold, shocked feeling that really drives home the reality of what it is to be a gangster.
As a whole, the content is fascinating, and the interviews with Kuklinski never cease to amaze—in an awful sort of way—however, the film itself leaves something to be desired. For one thing, the directors saw the need to throw in periodic interviews with random people loosely associated with Kuklinski, such as a Medical Examiner, an attorney, and a policeman. Usually, this wouldn't have been a problem, as it grants a certain degree of validity to the documentary, but these people not only seemed as if they had no real connection to Kuklinski, but also droned on and on in such a way that the viewer finds themselves simply wanting to fast forward to the next interview with the Iceman.
They also spent a lot of time showing pictures, often black and white, of the scenes of the crime. As with the interviews with the "experts", these pictures could have been a good idea as they, again, grant validity to the film. However, these photos that show the scene of the crime do not show anything even remotely gruesome or violent. Instead, they simply show the scenes after the fact, or even places that just looked like what the crime scene might have. It's doubtful the viewer would've found any of the real pictures offensive after listening to Kuklinski recount, in detail, about how he shot a man in the mouth before beating him to death with a tire iron.
Unfortunately, these boring, spliced-in pictures and interviews are not the only downside to the film. The directors also saw fit to throw in unnecessarily dramatic cinematography techniques. Instead of adding to the sense of horrified awe the film instills, the fade- in scenes and close-ups detracted from the seriousness of the scene. There really isn't much of a need to try and add suspense to a scene where Kuklinski is telling you all the different ways he's killed people with cyanide (a personal favorite of his). In addition to the cinematography, the music
was something it could have done without. In an attempt to make the interviews more dramatic, the overdone noise makes it seem like some sort of Halloween thriller when, as stated previously, the interviews really do not need any added drama. Also, the narrator could have been done without. Despite her stating explicit statement about the purpose of the documentary, it likely didn't help the police much in solving any crimes. On the other hand, it did give a lot of insight into the mind of a truly unrepentant killer.
Don't let the boring side interviews, unnecessary cinematography, and silly music stop you from watching the film, though. Despite the blunders of the filmmakers, watching Kuklinski's interviews are a rare chance to listen to the voice of true evil. Whether you're interested in the mafia, or if you're simply looking for something dark and twisted, this film should appeal to a wide range of people, excluding the weak of heart or constitution.
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