Boston Strangler Review: A mediocre true crime drama

“Boston Strangler is an intriguing and well-acted true crime drama that unsuccessfully attempts to recreate the same atmospheric tone and sense of danger as crime classics like Se7en and Zodiac.”


  • Keira Knightley’s quietly impressive lead role

  • Carrie Coon’s confident supportive turn

  • A refreshingly fast pace throughout


  • An unsatisfyingly low conclusion

  • A boring color palette

  • A lack of urgency and commitment

David Fincher’s fingerprints are everywhere Boston Strangler, the new true crime drama from writer-director Matt Ruskin. Whether on purpose 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 that critically acclaimed 2007 drama, however, Boston Strangler doesn’t have the patience to let fear mount for the moment before it prompts Knightley’s Boston reporter to run from one of her suspect’s possible traps.

The movie is clear Zodiac tribute is not the only case where Boston Strangler falls short of its own ambitions. On the one hand, 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 tries to fit so much material into its 112-minute runtime that it feels overcrowded and light at the same time. Not only does the movie fail to give its skilled stars as much to do as they deserve, but it also repeatedly chooses to jump from one scene to the next without ever letting viewers sit down and really lose the emotional weight. of the tragic true story.

Chris Cooper sits on a news desk in Boston Strangler.

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

Before long, Loretta and Jean emerge as the lead reporters for the Boston Strangler, much to the chagrin of the Boston City Police Department and its commissioner (Bill Camp). In the course of her investigation, however, Loretta’s interest in the case quickly grows into an outright obsession. Consequently, not only does the case begin to threaten the fragile stability of Loretta’s marriage and family life, but the attention surrounding it begins to put both her and Jean in real danger.

As the plot suggests, Boston Strangler follows the same general arc as many of the detective and journalist thrillers that preceded it. Loretta’s emotional journey from an aspiring reporter trying to complete her first real investigation to a dangerously obsessed journalist looking to catch the Boston Strangler bears striking similarities to the arcs of characters like Jake Gyllenhaal’s puzzle-solving cartoonist in Zodiac and even Jodie Foster’s naive but capable FBI intern The silence of the lambs. Fortunately, Knightley’s tightly controlled starring role manages to bring real humanity to Loretta’s story in the movie.

Carrie Coon wears headphones in Boston Strangler.
Studios from the 20th century

Facing her, Carrie Coon continues to prove herself as one of Hollywood’s most reliable working character actresses. As Jean Cole, she brings much-needed confidence Boston Strangler that helps anchor the story in a kind of professional professionalism that the movie desperately needs. Together, she and Knightley share an infectious onscreen chemistry, but the movie never spends as much time exploring Loretta and Jean’s friendship as it should. Instead of letting Coon share the spotlight as Boston Strangler‘s co-lead, her Jean is instead relegated to being a major supporting figure in Loretta’s journey.

The movie also never makes enough time for any of its other talented supporting cast members. In addition to Coon, Chris Cooper, Alessandro Nivola, Morgan Spector, Bill Camp, and Rory Cochrane all appear in roles that feel disappointingly flimsy. Despite his commanding presence on screen, Spector’s performance as Loretta’s husband comes across as particularly monotonous. Ruskin’s script never invests enough energy into exploring Loretta’s marriage, which greatly undermines her husband’s lightning-fast transition from supportive husband to disapproving nag.

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

Boston StranglerThe superficial depictions of many of his key relationships and moments are ultimately reflected by his bland visual palette. In an effort to further emphasize the darkness of the story and setting, Ruskin and cinematographer Ben Kutchins apply a desaturated filter to Boston Strangler making the film look annoyingly cloudy and underexposed. Like many thrillers made before it, the film makes the mistake of sacrificing visual clarity, purely in the hope of unnecessarily emphasizing a grim atmosphere already created by the script.

All of these decisions lead to Boston Strangler being a fine but easy to forget true crime thriller that doesn’t explore the real story or characters as deeply as they deserve. Ruskin’s aspirations for the film are clear from the moment it begins to the moment it ends, but there’s a disappointing void at the heart of the film. Boston Strangler that prevents it from ever producing the kind of empathy or fear its story demands. The film ultimately proves that it is relatively easy to refer to your colleagues’ work. Replicating their precision and control is the hardest part.

Boston Strangler is now available to stream on Hulu.

Editor’s Recommendations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *