Hangman (2017) Review

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Hangman (2017): 3 out of 10:  A retired detective (Al Pacino) and a criminal profiler (Keith Urban) join forces to catch a serial killer who is using the children’s game hangman as his leitmotif. An intrepid reporter (Brittney Snow) has been assigned to tag along as the three try to solve the case while the victims pile up. Can they solve the puzzle in time?

The Good

The Good: Al Pacino. While Keith Urban gives a solid performance considering the dodgy material Al Pacino takes it to a whole new level. For starters Tommy Wiseau has a more believable New Orleans accent than the southern fried nonsense Al is trying to pull off here. What’s more Pacino seems to change his accent scene by scene. Soon the most entertaining part of the movie is what accent will show up and what word is he going to add extra syllables to this time.

Pacino, to his credit, isn’t just in paycheck mode but gives a sense of world-weariness mostly through facial expressions and ad-libs. He certainly brings more character to his performance than the one-dimensional script would indicate.

As an example, our intrepid reporter Brittney Snow gives this insufferable and endless speech complete with fake tears about how hard it is to be a cop, how great cops are, and how she asked for this assignment so she could expose the greatness of cops to the public. It’s the kind of scene you would expect in a John Travolta film about electrical linesmen. At the end of the speech, an incredulous Al Pacino ad-libs a weary yeah great whatever with only his facial expression that is the best thing in the movie.

The Bad

The Bad: The script. The movie is one of those one step behind serial killer procedurals (Think Seven) where the cops have to guess the next victim using clues left behind at the previous crime scene. The fun of such films is that the audience is right there with the cops doing ye olde deduction.

The film never gives the audience information to follow along. Honestly, it never gives cops information either. The deductions are along the lines of “Why would he splatter the blood on the roof? Quick get me Central… Hello Central What is the victim’s birthday? Feb 1st, 1972? My god he will strike next at the Red Roof Inn on Route 72 in room 201 I need all cars headed there we only have minutes….”

Further demerits because at no point do the detectives try to solve the hangman game the killer leaves. Idiots.

The direction does the film little favors. The film is well shot (though it contains a hilarious shot of our three leads emerging from the fog in slow motion as if they were off to fight Doomsday.) But the pacing allows no tension to rise and seems to be there to cover the giant holes in the script. In the director’s defense, I am not sure how one could have shot this without a rewrite and cutting some hangings.

Or they could have cut one character. Outside of her yay cops speech, Brittney Snow seems to have no purpose in the film. We don’t need an audience surrogate since the film couldn’t care less about its audience following along. We don’t need a love interest. We don’t need an example of terrible acting. (Sloane Warren has that taken care of as the coroner.) Why is she in the movie? What could we be missing? Gee, I wonder whom the serial killer will kidnap at the end of the film?

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: This is a not a good film. Brittney Snow has zero charisma and screen presence. There is little tension when most of the victims are random and unknown until we find them hanging around. There is a moronic subplot where we need to keep the killings out the press as if daily lynchings in a mid-sized southern metropolis would ever go unnoticed. There is a sequel bait ending that makes no sense and is apparently there to anger the few audience members slack-jawed enough to still be entertained at this point. As Al Pacino would say “Y’all need a better script if the stallions are going mount the mare down by da holla”.

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