Boston Strangler Review: A Slow-Burning Thriller With A Flawed Tribute to Journalism
Hulu’s latest release, “Boston Strangler,” directed by Matt Ruskin, is a thrilling and captivating true crime story, following the dedicated investigative work of Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) as they pursue a dangerous serial killer terrorizing Boston in the 1960s. With its newspaper noir approach and edgy undertones reminiscent of David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” the film captures the grit and determination of two women determined to uncover the truth.
As Loretta and Jean delve deeper into the case, they are met with a string of gruesome murders in which women are strangled with their underwear tied around their necks in a bow. They are the first to notice the connection between the murders and broadcast it through the paper, recognizing the importance of spreading the information for the safety of women across the greater Boston area. The duo soon finds themselves at odds with the Boston police, who they accuse of mishandling the investigation and leaving innocent Bostonians in danger.
The film offers a nuanced perspective on women in a predominantly male space, exploring the challenges they face as they investigate a crime that predominantly targets women. The growing danger and paranoia are palpable as Loretta receives anonymous phone calls and notices a figure lurking outside her window. Despite the mounting risks, she remains unwavering in her commitment to discovering the truth.
However, while Knightley’s portrayal of Loretta is tenacious and compelling, the film loses some of its edge over time. Ruskin’s script offers a comforting spectacle of journalistic competency and courage, but the film lacks a distinct visual style and drags on in parts. There are too many scenes of Loretta and Jean poring over documents, and moments meant to sting lose their impact, leading to a growing sense of drabness in the film.
The supporting cast adds depth to the film, with Alessandro Nivola playing a Boston cop who begins to see the value in supporting Loretta’s investigation, and Chris Cooper as Loretta’s boss, who embodies the cliche of a tough newspaper editor. However, these characters are largely underutilized, with Bill Camp’s portrayal of the Boston PD commissioner feeling like a missed opportunity.
Despite its flaws, “Boston Strangler” is a solid true crime thriller that pays tribute to the hard work of two dedicated journalists who risked everything to uncover the truth. It culminates in a third act filled with unsettling twists, based on actual events, but emotional resonance is scarce. By the end, even Knightley only has so much space to construct a distinct arc from a dedication that lasted years and altered Loretta’s personal life.
In conclusion, “Boston Strangler” is a must-watch for fans of true crime and those interested in the history of game-changing Boston journalism. It is a compelling and entertaining film that showcases the dedication and bravery of two women determined to uncover the truth, even in the face of danger and adversity. Available on Hulu, this film is rated R for some violent content and language and runs for 1 hour and 52 minutes.