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Hangman Review

Hangman is a 2017 crime thriller about a homicide detective who teams up with a criminal profiler to catch a serial killer whose crimes are inspired by the children’s game Hangman.

It’s really only been a matter of time since a film like Hangman came around, the notion of a serial killer using the popular kid’s spelling game as a sort of murder methodology. Most movies simply can’t let psychopaths do their dirty work without some novelty attached to their modus operandi, with David Fincher‘s Se7en probably the jumpstarter to the trend. That was more than twenty years ago of course, and like a copy of a copy and so on, these movies have become more obligatory than innovative. So it is with Hangman, a movie that is filled with potential, yet crumbles mightily under its own weight.

Detective Archer (Al Pacino) is an old time retired detective, the kind of guy who rides around in a gold colored 1972 Buick Riviera Boattail. His former partner is Ruiney (Karl Urban), a troubled detective haunted by his murdered wife, trying to keep a level head while he is tailed by spunky, Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow), doing a human interest story meant to help heal the public perception of cops. The two detectives are specifically called out by badge number at the scene of a bizarre murder, where a young woman is strung up and gutted near a chalkboard with a hangman game in play and a letter carved into her chest. More bodies come, and clues come one letter at time in a race to find a maniac as the three get entangled in a deadly bit of cat and mouse.

If you note a hint of blandness to that description, you’ll forgive me, as ‘generic’ is the rule of thumb here. Seriously. Hangman is a film of such absolutes it’s hard to even accept, making me feel as if I might have missed the whole point of it. For example, take an extended moment when a woman runs from these two cops, skipping over fences and through houses and bars, and over car hoods, until finally they catch her, with Archer bumping her in his car. “Still prefer retirement?” Ruiney snarkily asks him when it’s over. Dialogue like that is everywhere, the film packed with exhibition and pulpy exchanges more overwrought than a late night police procedural television series. It even has a hardboiled police captain who says things like, “Get the hell out of my office before I change my mind.” But hey, she’s a woman, so, you know, cool?

Directed by Johnny Martin, a stunt coordinator for over a hundred films now, whose earlier Vengeance: A Love Story with Nicholas Cage, proved he can helm an action film, does what he can here but is stunted by a weak script (by Michael Caissie and Charles Huttinger) that is hampered by tiresome tropes and shallow dialogue. It plays out as if the audience has no ability to make a single judgement on their own, connecting dots with a steamroller. Sure, the idea is interesting, but it’s so obvious, it rarely feels compelling. Davies is entirely unessential, even as she makes all the smart observations, yet is never convincing. She does everything she isn’t supposed to do, somehow stumbling into all the right places. Pacino, one our greatest cinematic icons, works hard to recall his exceptional Lt. Vincent Hanna, but it pales because he’s given nothing good to say. Then there’s Urban, who is a great presence in most of his films, but plays it so hard-jawed and stiff, it rarely fits.

Hangman loves its ‘puzzles’, putting a lot of effort into setting up and delivering all kinds of bad guy traps and tricks, but it lacks the intrigue and well-defined characters of its Se7en inspirations. Martin is a good director and once again shows great promise, however, Hangman, despite the actor horsepower, is a bland disappointment.

Hangman Review

Movie description: Hangman is a 2017 crime thriller about a homicide detective who teams up with a criminal profiler to catch a serial killer whose crimes are inspired by the children's game Hangman.

Director(s): Johnny Martin

Actor(s): Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Al Pacino

Genre: Thriller

  • Our Score
User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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