In choosing the right kind of actor to play Richard Kuklinski, the notorious hitman of the ’60s and ’70s known as “The Iceman,” the producers couldn’t picked a better man than Michael Shannon. Long though his resume is, it’s only recently that Mr. Shannon has received the kind of attention he deserves, from his stirring lead in “Take Shelter” to his turn on Boardwalk Empire.
Ten years ago the role might have gone to Ray Liotta, who turns up here as Roy Demeo, a mob middleman who threatens Kuklinski in the face with a gun, then hires him on the spot because of his unflinching “iceman” qualities. Demeo has hired well, and he doesn’t really know it. We know that Kuklinski is the sort of man who will kill another man over a pool game. He’ll kill because he is told and paid to do so; he doesn’t enjoy it so much as he respects his own skills.