REVIEW: Boston Strangler (2023)

Keira Knightley in Matt Ruskin’s BOSTON STRANGLER — PHOTO: 20th Century Studios.

Directed by Matt Ruskin — Screenplay by Matt Ruskin.

Boston Strangler is based on the true story of the investigation into the 1960s serial killer known as the ‘Boston Strangler.’ The film primarily follows Boston Record American reporters Loretta McLaughlin (played by Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (played by Carrie Coon) as they try to investigate the story and break through small cracks in their profession’s glass ceiling.

While I, too, love David Fincher’s Zodiac, I must admit that I was kind of baffled by just how much this film has gone beyond just being inspired by Fincher’s true crime masterpiece. Fincher-inspired touches are all over this film. It’s in its yellow-to-beigy color tone, it’s in the fact that the film is about someone who is at first unfamiliar with stories like this being suddenly obsessed with it, you can see it by paying attention to the main character’s relationship with a certain officer of the law, you can see it in how the public finds out who exactly is publishing these stories (which obviously leads to our protagonists getting targets on their backs), and you can see it in certain scenes that have been basically copy-pasted from Zodiac and over into Boston Strangler. I am referring to the scene in which the film’s protagonist gets a menacing phone call from someone who only threatens with their heavy breathing and the scene where the protagonist visits someone to get new information when they are suddenly frightened they might be standing in front of the very person they are hunting. 

There is an obvious caveat here, though. It may very well be that all of these things actually happened to these actual people and that the film is unluckily branded as derivative when it is only being true to its story. But, in any case, the filmmaker doesn’t do enough to set his film apart from its inspirations, and that’s ultimately the most disappointing thing about this Boston Strangler adaptation. To add to this, there is a decided lack of energy in this film, which would’ve benefited greatly from less generic music, for example. But I also think it’s true that the first hour flies by way too fast. 

One way that it, obviously, is very different from Zodiac is the fact that this is a film about women and underlying misogyny. This can be seen in their workplace as Keira Knightley’s character is routinely sidelined with ‘lifestyle’ stories in spite of the capabilities and willingness to dive on into homicide stories, but it is also seen in the way law enforcement largely dismiss her stories as being ‘gossip’ or the result of flirtatious exchanges with inebriated officers at bars. To add to this, it does feel like the film wants to say something about the dynamics of her household and what her husband expects her to do and accept, but it didn’t fully materialize for me. The performances are fine but none of the actors really have deep characters to work from. They’re all working with stereotypical characters to a certain extent, but, nevertheless, Carrie Coon and Keira Knightley make for an entertaining duo in this true crime how-they-done-it film. 

Those who like to devour true crime films whole should find enough to chew on in Boston Strangler to have an exciting evening, but if you like to assess and analyze these films comparatively, you’ll quickly notice just how much it owes to David Fincher’s Zodiac, which it sometimes lifts entire scenes from. It’s passable and watchable, but it’s also just a little bit too generic and derivative.

6 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.