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Review: Boston Strangler
A New Film On The Iconic Serial Killer
Reporters Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole bravely pursue the story of the Boston Strangler at great personal risk, putting their own lives on the line in their quest to uncover the truth.
Since I was younger I was fascinated by the macabre history that is the world of serial killers. The case of The Boston Strangler seems to have become less and less looked into as I’ve gotten older, but I am very well aware of the story. So I was pretty intrigued to see that Hulu would be releasing a film from Searchlight Pictures simply titled Boston Strangler with names like Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Chris Cooper, and David Dastmalchian in its ensemble.
What I expected was a pretty thorough look into the investigation and of course, given the perspective we were getting, the kind of roadblocks female journalists had to overcome during the only even more already male-dominated world of sixties journalism. A pretty decent at best journalist period piece that delved into the mystery of the time this serial killer terrorized Boston. What I got was two movies, one good, and one that left me astounded at how quickly the whole thing seemed to snowball downhill,
The first half of the movie is generally solid. The cast delivers great performances, the script cleverly shows us the life of a female journalist both in and out of the newsroom, and the investigation into the killings is told through a series of historically accurate events that only heighten the pressure for audiences as the manhunt goes on. The direction isn’t anything special, but it is competent, and the cinematography makes it feel very much like a period piece of sixties Boston - though it does suffer in the color grading at times. Half-way through I thought this was the straight up B-tier decent film I had been anticipating.
Unfortunately during the second half the movie loses its own plot. While the questions around the corruption of the Boston police department of the time and the skeptical inquires into whether they caught the right suspect is worth exploring, the film delves so deep into rabbit holes and conspiracy theories that its storytelling started to lose credibility with me. I was half-hoping it would have been revealed that our protagonists had gotten too obsessed with the case, but the script leans hard into innuendos and unfounded theories that I would expect from some podcast desperate for views rather than a movie of this type.
Overall this film left me feeling very mixed. On one hand I liked the first half, the performances, the mood, and am very intrigued by the subject. On the other it seems to lose its way half-way through and becomes a practically fictional thriller more so than a period piece by the end; falling from a movie I would have graded a straight up B to a film that is at the higher range of a C for me. Boston Strangler is not what I would use for reference on facts of this fascinating and macabre period of American journalism history, but maybe some out there will find it an enjoyable filler for the day.