Film Review: Boston Strangler (2023)

Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon impresses in the main roles but true-crime drama Boston Strangler ends up a little dry

“How many women have to die before it’s a story?”

In the tradition of so many dramas based on true crime, the real story behind Boston Strangler is scarcely believable. A serial killer targetting the women of Boston in the 1960s is only spotted by the work of two resourceful journalists, Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole who have to battle the police and the authorities hard to take them, and the crimes, seriously enough to refocus their investigation in the right direction.

Writer/director Matt Ruskin pays great tribute to McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Cole (Carrie Coon) and presents them as rounded, complex figures, at war with the patriarchy in almost every aspect of their life. Friends, families and loved ones are cast by the wayside as the pair dig deep into their reporting, making themselves targets for the many misogynists in society, from sisters-in-law to sexist bosses and heavy breathers on the phone.

But Ruskin is almost a little too careful, a little too respectful, as his storytelling ultimately lacks much to set it apart. With an actual serial killer on the loose and the threat of violence ostensibly around every corner, there’s hardly anything here to chill the spine or get you close to the edge of your seat. You do however feel beyond impressed at this pair’s determination to solve the crime and prove the naysayers wrong.

Knightley and Coon both impress in this respect, though you wonder if Coon’s Cole is a little underserved in the final cut. And though there’s real interest in how the case unfolds, particularly in its final third, Boston Strangler never quite takes a hold on the emotions to get us deeply engaged with the case.

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