Boston Strangler had the potential to be a standout of a true life crime thriller, but unfortunately squanders the opportunity.
BY JACK RANSOM MARCH 19, 2023
Based on the grisly true events. Boston Strangler sees reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) become the first person to connect a series of murders and break the story of the Boston Strangler. She and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) challenge the sexism of the early 1960s to report on the city's most notorious serial killer.
Arriving on Disney+ without even really a ripple of promotion outside of the trailer releasing a couple of weeks prior to release. I was rooting for this true crime investigative thriller to provide an interesting, tense and dark watch in a similar vein to the myriad of features that it stylistically attempts to emulate. Unfortunately, despite strong performances, a suitably bleak mood and an engaging first hour, before long Boston Strangler finds itself very much plodding along very familiar tracks.
The first hour or so I was engaged in the very procedural yet sturdy structure Boston Strangler offers. Refreshingly familiar is almost how it would be best described. The instantly dour and weighty tone is established and the routinely nature of Loretta and Jean’s investigation interspersed with a barrage of effectively and occasionally chillingly conveyed murders is easy to hook into. It’s just a shame that entering the second half the film rapidly loses investment and tension, as well as being abundantly underwritten in terms of Loretta’s obsession with this case (very much Zodiac-like) and the sexism of the era.
Narratively speaking the film also borrows heavily from Fincher’s excellent crime thriller. The saturated sickly greens, looming cigarette smoke drenched interiors, slick framing and occasionally gratuitous slow-motion all attempt to elevate the bog-standard script and yes, at times the film nails this (especially with a couple of smart directorial choices for the murder presentations).
Keira Knightley brings a smart, stern, sincerity and dedication to Loretta, as previously mentioned though it is just a shame the screenplay doesn’t offer her more. The dynamism between she and Carrie Coon (who is also good here) also just done feel as genuine or impactful as it should, especially with the brilliant (and frequently similar) partnership at the forefront of last year’s She Said.
Boston Strangler had the potential to be a standout of a true life crime thriller, but unfortunately squanders it with pacing problems, dwindling interest as the plot progresses and an underwritten script. Stylistically and from a tone perspective the film certainly delivers appropriately and the performances are solid, however you have seen this done far better in other features.