Boston Strangler Movie Review (2023)
Writer/director Ruskin approaches this story as a sort of newspaper noir, the kind that David Fincher’s “Zodiac” takes on as a major character trait. But while this film only conveys Fincher’s pale greens and dour tone rather than the film’s general nervousness, Ruskin’s flawed homage to Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole can still be entertaining for the journalistic skill and courage it embodies.
“Boston Strangler” narrows over time, beginning with Jean being positioned on the sidelines like a supportive, beat-up coach with a cigarette in hand (despite Coon’s rock-solid performance here, Jean’s Arc must have had numerous scenes on the bottom of the cutting room). But the conspiracy takes on some interesting levels, including the point where Loretta and Jean call the Boston Police Department in the newspaper for mishandling the investigation and leaving innocent Bostonians in a dangerous darkness. Loretta soon has her first experience of creepy male voices anonymously calling her home, much to the annoyance of her husband (Morgan Spector). And as she tucks one of her children in to sleep, she sees a figure outside her window. Despite this, she insists on finding out the truth about the killer.
As the murders continue, “Boston Strangler” evolves, with some additional intriguing circumstances, into a film about women in a mostly male space while investigating a crime against women in peril. But aside from an overheated scene where Loretta steps into a possible danger hole, the film loses any concern that she faces imminent danger from a killer or someone who is helping the police. Instead, it’s more about someone believing so strongly in case they risk losing focus on their family life, and yet “Boston Strangler” doesn’t have much room for that.
Instead, Ruskin’s screenplay offers the soothing spectacle of courageous watching reporters fight their way through dead ends. But even that is marred by the film’s increasing monotony, evident in a maudlin score with heavy somber strings and the lack of a distinct visual style that grows garish with each familiar sequence. There are plenty of scenes of Loretta and Jean poring over documents, and moments meant to sting — like Jean making eye contact with a suspect in custody — lose their impact. Even the Boston Strangler’s cutaway scenes are too similar to History Channel re-enactments to offer an unsettling atmosphere.