Boston Strangler Review: A Truly Mediocre Crime Drama | digital trends

“Boston Strangler is an intriguing and well-acted true crime drama that tries in vain to recapture the same atmospheric tone and sense of danger as classic crime movies like Se7en and Zodiac.”


  • Keira Knightley’s quietly commanding lead performance

  • Carrie Coon’s confident supporting turn

  • A refreshingly fast pace throughout


  • An unsatisfyingly understated conclusion

  • A drab color palette

  • Lack of urgency and bets

David Fincher’s fingerprints are all over it. boston strangler, the new true crime drama from writer-director Matt Ruskin. Whether by design or not remains a mystery until the film’s lead reporter, Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), comes dangerously close to recreating one of the most iconic scenes from Fincher’s true crime masterpiece. , Zodiac. Unlike the acclaimed 2007 drama, however, boston strangler she doesn’t have the patience to let the fear of the moment build up before it sends Knightley’s Boston reporter running from one of her suspect’s potential traps.

the film is clear Zodiac homage is not the only case in which boston strangler falls short of his own ambitions. For one thing, the film’s refreshingly fast pace helps set it apart from so many other true crime dramas that have come out in recent years. On the other hand, boston strangler it tries to cram so much material into its 112-minute running time that it ends up feeling simultaneously overloaded and light. Not only does the film not give its capable stars as much to do as they deserve, it also repeatedly opts to jump from one scene to the next without letting viewers sit down and truly feel the emotional weight of its tragic true story.

Chris Cooper sits at a news desk in Boston Strangler.

Set in the early 1960s, boston strangler follows Knightley’s Loretta, a newsroom reporter who gets a chance to step away from her newspaper’s Lifestyle column when she begins reporting on the appearance of a serial killer in Boston. Her discovery that a series of recent murders are connected by several puzzling similarities prompts Loretta to become her newspaper’s lead reporter on “The Boston Strangler,” a real-life man who killed more than 10 women in Boston. over the course of several years. Along the way, Loretta’s editor, Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper), assigns her an investigative partner in Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), one of the few female journalists employed by her newspaper.

Before long, Loretta and Jean emerge as the lead reporters for the Boston Strangler, much to the irritation of the City of Boston Police Department and its commissioner (Bill Camp). However, over the course of her investigation, Loretta’s interest in the case quickly turns into a full-blown obsession. The case consequently begins to not only threaten the fragile stability of Loretta’s marriage and family life, but the attention surrounding it also begins to put her and Jean in real danger.

As its plot suggests, boston strangler follows the same general arc as many of the detective and journalist thrillers that have come before it. Loretta’s emotional journey from being an ambitious reporter trying to nail her first real investigation to a dangerously obsessed journalist trying to catch the Boston Strangler bears striking similarities to the arcs taken by characters like Jake Gyllenhaal’s puzzle-solving cartoonist. in Zodiac and even Jodie Foster’s naive but capable FBI trainee in The silence of the lambs. Fortunately, Knightley’s tightly controlled lead performance manages to bring true humanity to Loretta’s story in the film.

Carrie Coon wears a pair of headphones in Boston Strangler.
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Opposite her, Carrie Coon continues to prove to be one of the most reliable working character actresses in Hollywood. As Jean Cole, she brings much-needed confidence to boston strangler that helps anchor its story in a kind of professional professionalism that the movie desperately needs. Together, she and Knightley share an infectious on-screen chemistry, but the movie never spends as much time exploring Loretta and Jean’s friendship as it should. Rather than allow Coon to share the spotlight as boston stranglerHis co-star Jean, on the other hand, is relegated to being a major supporting figure in Loretta’s journey.

The movie also doesn’t make enough time for any of its other talented cast members. In addition to Coon, Chris Cooper, Alessandro Nivola, Morgan Spector, Bill Camp, and Rory Cochrane appear in roles that feel disappointingly thin. Despite his commanding screen presence, Spector’s performance as Loretta’s husband comes across as particularly flat. Ruskin’s script never invests enough energy exploring Loretta’s marriage, greatly undermining Loretta’s breakneck transition from supportive spouse to disapproving nagging.

Alessandro Nivola walks between the police cars in Boston Strangler.
20th century studies

boston stranglerSuperficial depictions of many of her key moments and relationships are ultimately reflected in her drab visual palette. In an effort to further bring out the darkness of its story and setting, Ruskin and cinematographer Ben Kutchins apply a desaturated filter to boston strangler that makes the movie look annoyingly muddy and dimly lit. Like many thrillers before it, the film makes the mistake of sacrificing visual clarity simply in the hope of unnecessarily emphasizing a kind of bleak atmosphere that’s already established in its script.

All of these decisions result in boston strangler being a good but easily forgettable true crime thriller that doesn’t explore its story or real life characters as deeply as they deserve. Ruskin’s ambitions for the film are clear from the moment he begins to the moment he ends, but there’s a disappointing void at the heart of boston strangler that prevents him from producing the kind of empathy or fear that his story demands. The movie ultimately proves that referencing your peers’ work is relatively easy to do. The hard part is replicating his precision and control.

boston strangler is available to stream now on Hulu.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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