UK Release Date: 4th June 2018
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Johnny Martin
Writer: Charles Huttinger, Michael Caissie
Starring: Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Al Pacino, Sarah Shahi
Synopsis: A cop whose wife was murdered a year ago, a journalist with trauma in her past and a retired detective are forced to work together when they are called out by a serial killer who appears to be playing games based on the child’s game of Hangman.
The gold standard for the grim serial killer thriller in the modern day is David Fincher‘s rain-drenched masterpiece Se7en. The fingerprints of Fincher’s modern classic are all over just about every recent serial killer tale, from the laughable The Snowman last year to the Al Pacino starring Hangman, which is set to arrive on VOD platforms in the UK next week. Reviews have been tepid at best, so expectations were minimal, but this is an entertaining and engaging thriller that has a surprising degree of charm, despite its adherence to strict crime movie formula.
Pacino, in a role with far more to it than the direct-to-DVD slum parts that many of his generation have fallen into, plays retired detective Archer, who spends his time sitting in his car doing crosswords. Meanwhile, one of Archer’s former comrades Ruiney (Karl Urban) is babysitting New York Times journalist Christi (Brittany Snow) so that she can write a piece about the work the police department is doing. On their first night together, the duo discover a body hanging from a tree. Next to the body is a message that calls out both Ruiney and Archer, bringing the old man out of retirement to investigate what quickly becomes the case of a serial killer.
There’s a lot of material in Hangman that betrays it as a direct-to-streaming release, from its occasionally very clunky dialogue – “sometimes finding out the truth leaves scars,” says Snow’s journo – to the rather clumsy way it pulls together the pieces of its mystery plot. It’s certainly an inexpert movie that often feels as if it’s bumbling along with its head barely above water, rather than crafting an immaculate mystery with an elegant and compelling resolution.
Hangman, though, mounts an engaging enough mystery. The dynamic between the three main characters is interesting, with Snow especially shining as the committed and fearless reporter who has her own personal reasons for wanting to get the story of the police force out into the world. Pacino, meanwhile, is the grizzled veteran who’s always frustrated when he misses a lead, while Urban is driven by the fury of losing his wife in incredibly gruesome fashion. The breadcrumbs of plot information are teased out nicely, albeit with a certain frantic desperation that suggests gaps were filled in on the fly.
Veteran stunt coordinator Johnny Martin is a slightly uneven directorial voice, but there’s a believable feeling of scuzzy darkness to the movie’s atmosphere, particularly as it moves towards its muddled final moments. The action, too, works surprisingly well – most notably in a foot chase that sees Karl Urban race after a suspect in an admirably pulse-pounding blast of big screen adrenaline. The pieces of Hangman never quite come together but, as an hour or two of entertainment, there’s enough there.
Pop or Poop?
You probably know what to expect from a direct-to-VOD crime thriller – particularly one in which an Oscar winner slums it in a main role. Hangman occasionally slips into that particular basement but, for the most part, it’s an enjoyably silly crime thriller with a nasty eye for grotesque detail and a fun trio of very different lead characters.
It’s a bit of a mess at times and some of the dialogue is eye-rolling in the extreme, but this particular example of crime movie formula is a fun thrill ride.
Hangman is available on VOD in the UK from June 4.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.