BOSTON STRANGLER (DISNEY+) (2023)
SYNOPSIS: Based on the infamous Boston Strangler murders, this is the true story of Loretta McLaughlin, the first reporter to connect the murders and break the story of the Strangler. She and fellow reporter Jean Cole challenged the sexism of the early 1960s to report on the city's most notorious serial killer and worked tirelessly to keep women informed.
Boston Strangler screams like a female-driven Zodiac but unlike the David Fincher’s flick, this period thriller lacks the satisfaction and disturbing factors of the latter despite a showy performance from Kiera Knightly and Ridley Scott as one of the producers.
Set in the 60’s and based on the true story of the Boston Strangler who murdered 13 women, Knightly plays Loretta McLaughlin, a reporter with the “Boston Record American” who connects the murders to a serial killer forcing the Boston police department to act on it. Pairing with Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), a fellow veteran investigative reporter, the duo discovers that there are more than meets the eyes in a world filled with sleazy individuals, sexism and incompetent authorities.
Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Boston Strangler is an investigative drama that attempts to unsuccessfully branch out into several storylines. There is the mounting tension between Loretta and her once-supportive husband given her dedication to her job. And of course, Loretta and Jean’s working ethics in a male-dominated environment and the ridiculous police procedural that often led to nowhere.
Very often instead of the crime being the centre of attraction, Boston Strangler becomes an unofficial biography of Loretta McLaughlin. The character of McLaughlin is somehow turned into some die-hard super sleuth midway far more capable than Detective Conley (Alessandro Nivola), the cop assigned to the crime. First, she follows a suspect to his creepy basement (remember Zodiac?) then she wonders if Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian) is actually the main murderer given his shaky statements.
Boston Strangler obviously established two strong female characters who worked closely to connect the dots though there is seemingly a lack of focus on their working relationship. In fact, it’s Chris Cooper who plays their grouchy boss that is more engrossing in the newspaper room in the end.
While the crime drama re-enacts a few grisly (mostly off-screen) killings, it’s nothing more than fillers to spice up the narrative. As a result of Albert DeSalvo being killed in prison, doubts remained over the decades if he was really the serial killer that murdered all 13 women. Ruskin weaved a somewhat believable conclusion to Loretta’s investigation and this is after all, a story about Loretta McLaughlin.
Crime fans will likely forget that there is a true crime being talked about in Boston Strangler. For whatever combination of reasons, Ruskin has made a lite-biography on McLaughlin rather than a thrilling investigative drama.
Review by Linus Tee