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Hangman (Movie Review)

Hangman (Movie Review)
12.21.2017by: Mike Sprague
5 10

PLOT: A homicide detective teams up with a criminal profiler to catch a serial killer whose crimes are inspired by the children's game Hangman.

REVIEW: Like most of the movie-going public, I am a big fan of Al Pacino. But over the past few years, it seems as if the actor has been in fewer and fewer films. At least, the kinds I enjoy watching. Nothing against an old-guy comedy, my tastes run more towards horror and thrillers, as you can imagine. It is with this in mind that I jumped at the chance to give Pacino's new horror-thriller HANGMAN a watch.

First off, a bit of the old plot and whatnot. HANGMAN centers on a retired detective (played by Pacino) who is called back into duty when his former partner (Karl Urban) is investigating a series of ritualistic murders and finds his badge number, along with Pacino's, scratched in a wooden desk at the grisly crime scene. From there the two detectives join forces with a young, plucky journalist, played by Brittany Snow (PROM NIGHT remake) and set about uncovering the mystery of the Hangman before time runs out.

Sound familiar? Sure, maybe the hangman aspect - named after the child's guessing game which features heavily at each crime scene with letter carved into the chest of the victims - is slightly fresh, but the rest of the plot rundown reads like a chapter of "Serial Killer Thrillers for Dummies." Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't fare much better. Other than the performances, which are top notch (for the most part). But we'll dig further into that below.

One the technical side of the noose, the film is adequate. The cinematography is slick and has a gritty yet polished quality that I dug. On top of that, the film's score is fittingly unsettling. Sure it straight up rips-off the teeth-gritting noises/score from the trailers for STEPHEN KING'S IT (you know the score/sounds I'm talking about, the ones that weren't in the final film) but it is a creeptastic soundscape, so I'll forgive it. One thing, however, that shouldn't be forgiven is the film's editing. Being an editor myself as my main source of cash, I try not to hate on editors too much. That said, the editing here is so shoddy that it took me out of the film on more than one occasion. Maybe you'll miss the editing issues... But I bet you don't.

One of the major issues with the film is its screenplay. I have no idea what attracted this level of talent to such a contrived mess. Let me ask you, do you enjoy the hell out of deus ex machinas? Do you? Then you'll eat this movie up. Seriously, the film is filled wall-to-wall with one-in-a-million chance encounters and right time/wrong place scenarios. Take, for instance, there is a part where one of our heroes drops their phone at a crime scene. The killer picks it up and after a few moments, we see the killer put it back where he/she found it. F*cking days later that hero-character sits on their bed, alone in the middle of the night, and decides to listen to the recording they had rolling back at that crime scene.

Turns out the killer recorded a special message for the investigator and - boom - right as our hero hears the message, the killer springs out from the closet! Wait... what? What the hell are the chances of that?! And this brings up another major issue with the film, coincidence is king. Basically, HANGMAN is one of those serial killer films where there is NO WAY everything could have gone to the maniac's plan so precisely. It doesn't work. Or make sense. Nor does it make the killer look like a diabolical genius. It only makes the writing look incredibly lazy. 

All of that said, the film does have solid performances. Urban has a few moments that come across as awkward, but for the most part - as always seems to be the case - Urban does a fine job of achieving sympathy with minimal effort. Charisma for days. Moving on to the master. Pacino does all he can with the material, and personally, I enjoyed seeing him hunt this serial killer. One of the few lone joys to be found in the film. Get 'em, Serpico! However, he does possess an accent that seems to come and go as it pleases. But shite happens. He's a legend and he can get by with a less-than-perfect accent. He's earned it. Brittany Snow, however, was spot-on in my eyes at all times. She even has a terrific monologue towards the end that she sells with mucho emotional heft. She had me going there for a minute. Good job, girl.

In the end, HANGMAN plays out like a feature-length episode of any given NBC crime-investigation series. And a lesser episode at that. However, it does sport Al Pacino, Karl Urban, and Brittney Snow, so if the idea of watching Al Pacino and co. guest star in a by-the-numbers episode of CSI, and/or whatever cop show is on at prime-time, then, by all means, check out HANGMAN. It won't disappoint. For everyone else, let's all just pretend this movie never happened. Out of respect for all those involved.

Extra Tidbit: HANGMAN hits select theaters December 22nd.
Source: AITH

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