*Disclaimer: Contains Mild Spoilers*
From Johnny Martin (Vengeance: A Love Story) comes, Hangman (2017); an intricate crime thriller which sees a retired police detective reunite with a former colleague, tortured by his own past to solve the heinous crimes of a serial killer basing his killings on the famous children’s ‘paper and pencil’ game.
Hangman stars Al Pacino (The Godfather, Scarface), Karl Urban (Doom, Ghost Ship) and Brittany Snow (Prom Night) as an ambitious journalist who assists the detectives in solving the crime. As the body count rises and the goal of justice begins to slip away, will the trio catch the culprit or merely become pawns in his sick game?
Hangman is by no means ground-breaking in any sense of the word and plays out in a ‘paint by numbers’ type fashion. All the conventional ‘police crime thriller’ tropes are in place from the low-key blue lighting to alleviate the melancholic ambience, to the detective with a tragic backstory which causes him to lose direction to the determined yet unqualified character (in this instance, Snow’s journalist role, Christi) becoming out of her depth once the stakes are raised.
There are obvious red herrings and personal conflicts occurring which all lead to the somewhat underwhelming reveal. However; the film is not awful by any means and has enough going for it to keep the audience engaged, albeit on the predictable side.
Martin’s direction is consistent, he leaves no stone unturned, keeps his eye on the prize and doesn’t veer off into any unnecessary territory. With the seamless pacing, the film is effortless to watch from a viewing perspective. It does what it needs to do and goes exactly where it should. Martin ensures that the film sustains a focus with the case itself taking centre stage and character development gradually unfolding without seeming shoehorned in or forced.
From a scripting stance, the films co-writers, Charles Huttinger and Michael Caissie play it safe with it being their first, major feature screenplay. They don’t opt for any radical plot twists and keep the proceedings quite traditional to the crime/thriller genre.
To their credit, they do shy away from implementing a ‘romantic sub-plot’ which could have easily been achieved between Snow’s Christi and Urban’s Det. Will Ruiney. Instead, they keep the characters true to themselves with Snow’s character representing a fearless career woman who doesn’t allow anyone to obstruct her goals. That aspect was refreshing to see.
Featuring esteemed actors as the main players, the performances are believable and compelling. Pacino and Urban work well together, creating a convincing relationship between their characters. The way they come to show protection towards Christi plays out authentically and it’s a given that all these characters really care about each other as well as doing the right thing. Pacino playing the character with the most empathy.
Hangman has effectively been panned by critics which all in all is rather harsh. While it’s not exactly original and could easily work as an extended episode of CSI or a lesser version of, Se7en (1995); in which it demonstrates a clear influence from, it really isn’t that bad at all.
Yes, it’s formulaic and evocative of many titles derived from that genre but thanks to its tightly-knitted plot it is very much a watchable film. Other than detailing injury and lingering shots of the murder victims, Hangman only slightly dips its toe into horror waters and is more so a strong example of a conventional, modern, ‘whodunnit’.
Hangman will be available for Digital Download from the 4th June 2018.