Friday, March 17, 2023

A dreary true-crime story


You can't say they didn't try. Whoever assembled Boston Strangler -- a movie about reporters covering a famous case of the 1960s -- hired a first-rate cast. Kiera Knightley and Carrie Coon team as reporters for the Boston Record American. Knightley's Loretta McLaughlin rises from lifestyle obscurity to become an ace crime reporter. She was the first journalist to report that a string of 13 horrific murders were connected. Coons portrays Jean Cole, a veteran journalist who already had broken into the male-dominated ranks of “hard” news. The two give fine performances, although the movie tilts more toward McLaughlin, showing snippets of her home life. Chris Cooper, as the paper’s editor, and Alessandro Nivola, as a detective working the case, add heft. Writer/director Matt Ruskin conveys some of the ambiguity about the case’s resolution. Tagged as The Strangler, Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian) became known as killer but was positively linked to only one of the 13 murders. Attempts to tell the story of a woman battling for a bigger journalistic role are conjoined with a dreary narrative that also dips into police bungling. For the most part, Ruskin proceeds in a prosaic fashion that tends to drag. What feels like a dutiful approach to storytelling often robs the movie of opportunities to sizzle.

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