Though Boston Strangler pays homage to the reporters who broke the story of the infamous killer, the film lacks conviction and fails to draw you in completely.
We review the 2023 Hulu film Boston Strangler, directed by Matt Ruskin, which does not contain spoilers.
In 1962 a monstrous serial killer was on the loose in the Boston area, killing women inside their homes in broad daylight. The eeriest part of one of US history’s most infamous crime stories is that the victims were attacked where they should feel the safest. It was also believed that the evil perpetrator would act as a handyman to gain entry to their apartments.
But what many people may not know about the real-life case is the story of the heroic reporter who, after seeing a string of murders that took place in the same area during a short period, was convinced that the victims shared the same killer.
Boston Strangler Review and Plot Summary
Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter who works for The Record American in Boston, wants to be given the opportunity to prove herself in her career. Instead of covering mundane stories for the lifestyle desk, such as reviewing the latest product release, she is determined to take on a story that not only challenges her but that can demonstrate her full potential.
After seeing three reports in the local newspaper of women being brutally murdered in their apartments over two weeks, Loretta convinces her boss Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper), to let her report on the crimes, as she believes they are linked.
During her research, Loretta runs into some challenges. Her reports are not only deemed inaccurate but she’s also accused of flirting with an officer on the case to receive information about a victim of the investigation. After temporarily being taken off the story, Loretta is reinstated, though she has to work alongside Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), a much more experienced reporter. From then on, the dynamic duo works alongside one another to break the story of the frightful serial killer they later name the Boston Strangler.
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Ruskin does a fantastic job of showcasing the crimes committed by the Boston Strangler and giving Loretta and Jean’s story its moment to shine. The film also demonstrates some of the inequalities women faced in the workplace during the 60s, with their male counterparts doubting their abilities in their working roles, making the reporter’s breakthrough even more compelling. And yet, even sixty years later, many still don’t know their involvement in the case, so seeing Ruskin bring their story to the big screen is a groundbreaking moment.
We also get a glimpse into Loretta’s home life and her struggle to maintain a work-life balance, which starts to cause friction in her marriage and decreases the time she spends with her kids. This is relatable and a reality that many women with families face as they try to juggle the two. Still, she is finally being taken seriously at work and is too close to the finish line to throw in the towel.
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But regardless of the appreciation I have for the film paying homage to Loretta and Jean, it still failed to grip me as a viewer. Perhaps this is due to the stylistic approach and visual storytelling techniques used to set the mood and mystery, all of which felt like a carbon copy of 2007’s Zodiac. A couple of scenes in Boston Strangler were so similar to Fincher’s masterpiece that it was all I could focus on, and it took me out of the story completely.
The film does, however, lend an impressive cast and all-around decent performances, particularly David Dastmalchian as Albert DeSalvo, who has nailed the role of every menacing character thrown at him during his career. Knightley and Coon also complement one another and are convincing as two powerful women who won’t take no for an answer and are committed to fighting for justice to unveil the truth and to identify who is responsible for the unimaginable acts of violence.
Suspenseful moments take place during the film that is hard to watch and will leave the viewer feeling unsettled. In some scenes, the audience can only hear the killings, which is even more haunting than seeing the crimes play out in real-time. Yet with all the variables needed to create an enticing true crime thriller, Boston Strangler still feels underwhelming and fails to pack a punch.
Is the movie Boston Strangler good?
Though Boston Strangler isn’t as gripping as other real-life stories based on serial killers, it’s worth the watch if you’re an avid true crime fan. The film gives viewers a detailed account of the heinous crimes and tells the story of the incredible reporters who helped put pieces of the case together and broke the story. There were many surprising details depicted in the film that I never knew about, and once the movie concludes, you will find yourself going down a rabbit hole.
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