REVIEW: “Boston Strangler” chokes

I am of the opinion that when it comes to creating an engaging film the basic premise is one of the least important factors. This sounds a little contradictory, but when you have a good writer, talented actors, and a creative crew, “kids in detention getting to know each other” can become The Breakfast Club and “12 people have jury duty and talk all day” can become 12 Angry Men

This is one of the reasons it is so disappointing for the opposite to happen: A movie being boring despite having an interesting premise. 

This describes Boston Strangler to a T, because despite its real-life story of murder and professional empowerment, decent acting, and adequate script, the film is ultimately just as boring and unengaging as the name implies. 

Movies based on true stories can be a little tricky, as life is often more mundane than fiction, but you also shouldn’t go too far when spicing up the truth for an audience looking to be entertained. I don’t know much about the actual story of the Boston Strangler, but I imagine this film is pretty true to what actually happened, as any possible spicing up blends in so perfectly with the blandness of the rest of the movie that it all appears as one plausible yet tedious blob. 

Boston Strangler may be based on a true story, but there is nothing in it that has not been done more interestingly in other films, be they completely fictional ones or other partial adaptations of events that actually happened. This actually led me to wish there were clearer liberties taken in the name of audience engagement, something I don’t usually do– anything to make the experience more interesting. 

Outside of the humdrum familiarity of the plot (murder happens, investigation happens, another murder happens, repeat until “where are they now” text pops up right before the end credits) and characters (Keira Knightley tries to break into investigative reporting in a man’s world, gets obsessed with her work, her marriage suffers as a result), I am not entirely sure why Boston Strangler was so unmotivating to me, as all of its separate parts are somehow much more than its sum. 

The acting is good, and not once did I find Keira Knightley’s American accent silly or unnatural. The script is believable, the cinematography occasionally ambitious if sometimes a little distracting. I guess there was music, although that might have just been me humming to myself as I tried to keep my mind from wandering. 

Overall there just isn’t anything exceptional about any of it; I’m even having a difficult time writing this review, because though I watched Boston Strangler less than 24-hours ago I’ve already forgotten nearly everything about it, and the things I do remember may or may not actually be memories of things that happened in much more engaging true crime movies like Zodiac

Needless to say, I’d go ahead and skip this one unless you are a true crime fanatic with a lot of time on your hands. 

Boston Strangler is now available on Hulu.