Director(s): Matt Ruskin
Writer(s): Matt Ruskin
Cast: Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Alessandro Nivola, David Dastmalchian, Morgan Spector, Bill Camp and Chris Cooper
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Mar 17, 2023 - Hulu/Disney+
The true-crime thriller Boston Strangler, premiering on Hulu in the US and Disney+ elsewhere, follows the hunt for the serial killer responsible for the strangulation deaths of thirteen women with ages ranging from 19 to 85. This hunt wasn’t started by the police, who saw no connection between the crimes in the early 1960s, but by two female journalists.
Loretta McLaughlin (Kiera Knightley) is a lifestyle writer for the Record American, a Boston newspaper. She sees the stories about the string of murders and feels that they are not isolated incidents. Pitching the story to her editor, Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper), he points to the homicide bureau staffed by men and dismisses the idea of McLaughlin working on it. When she says she’ll work on the story in her spare time, he relents and allows her to move forward, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her important work, like reviewing toasters.
Before long, McLaughlin ruffles the feathers of the boys’ club, both within the paper and the police force. Her story is beginning to bear fruit and MacLaine forces her to work with another female reporter, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), who has a longer record in investigative journalism. The pair soon dub the unknown perpetrator the Boston Strangler. Their work is serious, but the idea –and novelty — of women doing “men’s work” threatens to overshadow the crime itself.
In the streaming world, where the limited series is king, we often see series that are either stretched several episodes too long or could work as a two hour movie. With Boston Strangler, we have a movie covering an investigation that could probably be better served by the limited series format. Knightey, Coon, Cooper and Alessandro Nivola all deliver excellent performances and it would be interesting to give the two reporters a bit more space to peel away the layers of the crime, the initial police indifference, and the media circus and societal expectations.
Writer-director Matt Ruskin does a good job fitting the details of the case into the movie’s runtime, but like the police and public who just wanted the case to be over, Boston Strangler leaves threads of the story unexplored.