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"Boston Strangler" is a ho-hum killer thriller that squanders solid performances from Knightley and Coon.
Stories about serial killers are hot and people can't get enough of them. Most focus on the killer's lust for blood or the inner workings that drive them to commit their crimes. "Boston Strangler" focuses less on the killer and more on the two female reporters whose work helped give a voice to a frightened city. I liked it, but I didn't love it.
When three females are found murdered in the Boston area, it lands on almost no one's radar – or, as the editor of the Record American says, "they're nobodies." However, it catches the attention of reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley). She actively tries to pursue the story but is reminded of her place at the Lifestyles desk doing important tasks such as reviewing toasters.
But when she begins looking into the cases and connecting some dots, her boss Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper), allows her to continue. When her first story reveals the connection between the cases and attracts the city's attention, pressure is put on the paper. The citizens want answers and the city cops and government wants nothing to do with it.
Loretta partnered with Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) and the duo set out to uncover the identity of the Phantom Strangler, which they will ultimately give the name that struck fear in every female in the city – The Boston Strangler.
As the two work each story in the killings, Loretta struggles to balance her professional and personal life. As she rises to one of the most known reporters at the Record American, she becomes more distant from her husband and children, creating a fracture that can't be mended.
The city breathes a sigh of relief when Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian) is arrested and confesses to the killings. Still, Loretta continues her investigative reporting feeling that DeSalvo isn't the killer. She discovers the murders and confession may not be the act of a single deranged mind but the colluded effort to allow the real killer to continue to walk the street.
"Boston Strangler" went beyond the simple task of telling the story of The Boston Strangler killings. It focused on two driven female reporters who risked their personal and professional lives in pursuit of the story. The film showcases the uphill battle they both faced as female reporters in a primarily male newsroom and how the newspaper used them as a novelty, putting them both in danger.
My biggest complaint with "Boston Strangler" is it feels more like a Movie of the Week instead of a feature which is surprising with the cast it boasts. Knightley is solid in the lead role, but one aspect of her performance kept pulling me from the story. She attempts a New England accent, and it works to varying degrees. At times she does exceptionally well, then at others, it looks painful as if she fought to get the words to form.
Coon, as always, is flawless in her performance as Jean and anchors the film in a big way. Her portrayal of Jean is effortless and she's able to mix fierceness and venerability nicely.
As much as I liked the film and found it interesting, I hoped for more due to the subject matter. I liked the experience throughout, but when the movie ended, I didn't feel moved one way or the other. Writer/director Matt Ruskin's seemingly unwillingness to provide much tension except for a few scenes does a disservice to the story.
"Boston Strangler" is a ho-hum killer thriller that squanders solid performances from Knightley and Coon. The film's ultimate crime is not living up to the terror that the subject matter implies.