Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) was working the Lifestyles desk at the Boston Record American when she became the first reporter to connect a series of strangulation deaths that had been occurring in and around the city. Along with fellow female journalist, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), the two battled against the inherent sexism of the early 1960s, and helped bring down the serial killer, Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian), through their terrific, patient reporting.
This all seems ripe for a great thriller, so why does "Boston Strangler" end up feeling so bland?
There just seems to be very little energy in the story-telling, despite the strong cast that also features Chris Cooper (a great addition to any ensemble) and Alessandro Nivola. Who knew that Keira Knightley has such an effective, flawless American accent? She's terrific, and if anything else I hope this role opens up some doors for her. Carrie Coon - one of the absolute greats at the moment - is a bit stifled, with the script not allowing her much characterization, but she shines nonetheless.
On the positive, "Boston Strangler" has an interesting way of revealing the murderer to his characters and us, the audience. Like McLaughlin, we read about the first few killings in the newspaper. Slowly, we creep in. The next killing is done off-camera, where we watch a woman move out-of-frame to answer her door. The killings get more and more intimate on-screen, a metaphor as to how the reporters and detectives are closing in on their subject.
But there's no flare, no real thrills. This feels like a well-acted episode of "Law & Order," or a TV-movie that you might leave on in the background while you do the dishes, or iron a shirt.
It is being released directly to Hulu, so it's essentially a TV movie...one that just feels like it doesn't live up to its potential. "Boston Strangler" has too tight a grip on convention, and would have benefited from loosening up a bit.
Genre: History, Crime, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Chris Cooper, Alessandro Nivola, David Dastmalchian, Rory Cochrane.
Written and Directed by Matt Ruskin ("Crown Heights," "Booster," "The Hip Hop Project").
"Boston Strangler" is available to stream on Hulu starting Friday, March 17th, 2023.
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