Boston Strangler is directed by Matt Ruskin who is making his first foray back to directing since 2017 and features Kiera Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin, a young female journalist on a quest to solve the string of Boston Strangler murders when she discovers the police aren’t doing enough to protect the women of their community. Partnered with Carrie Coon’s Jean Cole, they challenge the rampant sexism and complicated bramble of 1960’s law enforcement and journalism while trying to solve one of the most notorious killing sprees in the city’s history.
Boston Strangler is the story of a heroic woman, not a sadistic killer.
Boston Strangler explores the seedy underbelly of law enforcement and journalism in this era, and does it well. The dimly lit shots and neo-noire color palette provides a perfect backdrop for a truly riveting story that for once doesn’t focus on the violent murders, but instead the real life heroines who worked tirelessly to solve them. The serial killer genre has been overplayed for many years now, most recently with Netflix’s Dahmer series which was raked across the coals amongst fans for glorifying and embellishing the life of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. This is clearly not the goal of Boston Strangler. Ruskin goes out of his way to avoid tropey snags and violent deaths, the scariest part of this film is seeing the out of control sexism and barriers these women were facing in an uphill battle to catch a killer.
Kiera Knightley gives an excellent account of herself here commanding every second of attention when she is on screen. Boston Strangler shows the personal corners of her life and expresses how work on a case like this can effect a marriage, parenthood and every aspect of life you’d never think about. Her emotion and quiet confidence seeps through and brings a compelling and believable version of McLaughlin to life. Chris Cooper delivers an excellent performance here as well as her curmudgeonly boss who seems to be actively working against her and Carrie Coon delivers a measured and skillful supporting role as another powerful reporter. The performances moved the narrative smoothly forward, keeping the audience engaged and deeply invested.
The high profile case is fascinating in and of itself so to incorporate the investigation and develop the characters who were tying to solve the murders was an exceptional choice. The fresh perspective leaves this film feeling like an amalgam of Spotlight and Zodiac and leaves viewers with that sickeningly bubbling feeling of uncomfortable cringe as they get a peek into what a mess this investigation truly was and the stands taken by a few at the expense of themselves to make sure justice was served.
The main complaint here is going to largely be that it feels disingenuous to title a movie after a famous killer and have the entire runtime be about a female reporter trying to crack the case. This is missing the point however, which is to say that we should celebrate the heroes and not glorify the monsters. I was impressed with Ruskin’s return to the directors chair for Boston Strangler and I look forward to what he can cook up next. You can check out Boston Strangler on Hulu today and see if you can crack the case.
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