×

Film Review: ‘Hangman’

Al Pacino picks up an easy paycheck in a formulaic serial killer thriller.

Director:
Johnny Martin
With:
Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Joe Anderson, Sarah Shahi.
Release Date:
Dec 22, 2017

Rated R  1 hour 38 minutes.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3011960/

If “Hangman” were just a tad less formulaic, and settled for a slightly smaller body count, it might pass muster as the pilot movie for a basic cable police procedural. Mind you, that’s not to say it actually would be picked up to series, even with the marquee names of Al Pacino and Karl Urban attached. But it almost certainly would be marginally more appealing as a modestly diverting time-killer designed to fill the gaps between reruns.

Working from a by-the-numbers screenplay credited to Michael Caissie and Charles Huttinger, who obviously watched and studied “Seven” and dozens of other serial-killer melodramas before cranking up their scriptwriting software, director Johnny Martin (“Vengeance: A Love Story”) follows three major characters through a multiple-murder investigation with all the suspense-generating gusto of a store clerk checking off items on an inventory list.

Ruiney (Urban), a homicide detective barely recovered from the unsolved murder of his wife, treats his latest investigation as a personal matter when he finds two badge numbers — his own and that of Archer (Pacino), a retired associate — carved into a desk at the scene of what turns out to be merely the first of several interrelated crimes. The two detectives rejoin forces to piece together clues tauntingly placed behind at subsequent slayings by a serial killer somehow inspired by the guess-the-letter game of Hangman, all the while accompanied — whether they want to be or not — by Christi Davies (Brittany Snow), an investigative reporter bent on writing the ultimate ride-along story.

Predictably, the improbable partnership doesn’t begin promisingly. “Get that press pass out of my face,” Archer growls at the determined journalist. “Sir,” Davies indignantly replies, “I’ve been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.” (No, seriously: That’s just what she says.) But she winds up being grudgingly accepted by the two detectives anyway. And, by golly, it’s not difficult to accept that she earns respect because, like Urban, Snow comports herself with admiral professionalism while bringing at least a second dimension to a one-dimensional character.

(And speaking of actors who perform far beyond the call of duty: Sarah Shahi deserves kudos for her authoritative performance as the movie’s only halfway original character, a demanding police captain who just happens to be wheelchair-bound.)

“Hangman” is set in a mid-sized Southern city identified as Monroe (the movie was filmed on location in Atlanta), which presumably is the reason why Pacino reprises the same hambone drawl he sported in another recent VOD-ready thriller, the New Orleans-set “Misconduct.” To his credit, Pacino is appreciably more restrained here, even with the show-offy accent, and he summons enough world-weary gravitas to give the movie a great deal more than it ever gives him.

Still, as you watch him going through his paces and picking up an easy paycheck, one cannot help pondering a question that is a good deal more provocative than anything “Hangman” inspires: If there had been VOD features back in the 1970s, thereby increasing the demand for aging familiar faces, would stars like Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum now have a lot more credits on their IMDb pages?

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Hangman'

Reviewed online, Houston, Dec. 18, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production: A Lionsgate release of a Saban Films presentation in association with Patriot Pictures of a Patriot Pictures, Cheyenne Enterprises production in association with Moonstone Entertainment. Producers: Arnold Rifkin, Michael Mendelsohn. Executive producers:  William V. Bromiley, Ness Saban, Shanan Becker, Jonathan Saba, Johnny Martin, Etchie Stroh. Co-executive producer: Natalie Perrotta.

Crew: Director: Johnny Martin. Screenplay: Michael Caissie, Charles Huttinger. Camera (color): Larry Blanford. Editors: Greg D’Auria, Jeff Steinkamp. Music: Frederik Wiedmann.

With: Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Joe Anderson, Sarah Shahi.

More Film

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content