A retired homicide detective named Ray (Al Pacino) is called back to action after he and another old friend. Detective Will (Karl Urban), are both called out by an unknown criminal mastermind who is killing people in the style of the well-known game of Hangman. At the same time of the investigation, our two detectives are also joined by a journalist, Christi Davies (Brittany Snow), who soon becomes invested in assisting and helps with the case along the way.
I love watching films with a good murder puzzle that needs solving. To this day, one of my all-time favourite films is Se7en. Along with Se7en, many films have presented this type of plot before. Many of these types of movies also had a villain for us to try and work out with a big reveal at the end.
Hangman sure does have some pretty good talent in the acting department, but it fails to bring anything to life or make the film special. Al Pacino here is old and tired (and possibly unwell). Throughout the film’s duration, I was more worried about the actor personally than I was about the film’s character or plot. Pacino, who is one of my all-time favourites, is never used at his full potential in this film. Many words of his lines sound muttered, and at times it is very challenging to understand the actual dialogue. Actor Karl Urban (best known for Dredd or Lord of the Rings) is simply an angry character and never shows any change throughout the film. To top it off, he is overall dull, flat and uninteresting as a character. I also struggled to accept that with a case this heavy these hardcore detectives would welcome a journalist to just “tag-along” and possibly risk her own life by witnessing all these crime scenes.
The action scenes feel completed with poor results. From the opening scenes, we have Al Pacino driving his car after a bad guy. Yay, a car chase. But many scenes that are full of activities such as this moment that never show the actor. With cars zipping around, we have shots of the car and perhaps one or two seconds of our hero behind the wheel. These shots are quick, don’t feel smooth, and it’s evident that our heroes are never involved in any of the actions scenes. It’s possibly due to the film’s budget, but also the actor’s true capabilities. It’s distracting and somewhat annoying when you can tell these actors are not actually in these scenes, and instead we just see little moments.
As for the plot…I couldn’t care about it. The killer is dangerous and unknown, and as the audience are forced to play along with the detectives. After all, the audience too, is playing Hangman.
The film’s editing and cuts are messy and never feel constant. Many scenes are confusing in regards to the timeline. Our killer murders one victim daily, but as an audience, we watch these days last for an extended period or a short period. It’s never really mentioned if we are watching day three or day four etc. of the storyline and we always have to guess where in the timeline we are.
As the film progresses, we continue to watch our leads fail and further
mystery builds as to who this villain is and what the word spells. When the answers land, there is zero satisfaction considering the investment and time spent with these characters. No reward is given to the audience. What is the point of the film? Why was the killer hidden the whole time unless we were to question who he or she is? But the biggest disappointment comes moments before the film’s ending as it tries to promote a possible sequel (please Lord no!)
Overall, I wanted this film to be a good thriller, but it fails. Our heroes are poorly directed with no development, progress or reason for the film. As I invested into the mysteries here, I was hoping for something enjoyable in return, but all I got were disappointments as the film becomes a misleading mess. A massive shame considering the talent and plot: there’s a great film to be made with these ideas.
Hangman (2017) is Now Available on Blu-ray & DVD
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Review Written by Peter Walkden