I went into today’s movie with high hopes. Al Pacino and Karl Urban, two of my all time favourite actors in one movie? Sign me up! It makes me more than a little sad, then, to have to report that Hangman (helmed by stuntman turned director Johnny Martin) is not a good movie. Not a good movie at all. It comes across as desperately wanting to be Seven, or perhaps The Bone Collector, and fails on every front. My job here is to explain to you why you shouldn’t watch this. Fair warning, there are some mild spoilers below, if you’re truly determined to see this film, but nothing that isn’t explained fairly early on in the story.
Speaking of reasons why you shouldn’t watch this film, let’s look at some!
The story? Disjointed, with jumps around in time and leaps of logic that are frankly difficult to swallow.
Lead actors? Lacking any chemistry at all. There’s no rapport between them, nothing. If you want to see the complete antithesis of this, watch pretty much any scene between George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11.
Soundtrack? Forgettable. Serviceable would be the kindest thing I could say about it.
Camerawork? Barely adequate. The opening car chase is so badly shot that at times it’s difficult to tell what car you’re meant to be following.
Hangman is the story of a serial killer who leaves clues to a game of hangman every time he kills and has, for some unknown reason, a particular bone to pick with Al Pacino and Karl Urban’s characters. They also discover that he kills his victim each day at 11pm, which explains the ominously ticking clock that is superimposed over some of the opening scenes, but isn’t explained until a third of the way into the movie. We also have our detectives being shadowed by journalist Christi Davies, played by Brittany Snow, who essentially adds next to nothing to the plot and could be removed from the story without anything being lost.
Speaking of characters who add relatively little to the plot, we also have the the police Captain, who appears to hate Christi for no particular reason, and berates Pacino and Urban’s characters in virtually every scene they have together like she’s just escaped from some 1980’s cop drama. She genuinely seems like she’s one breath away from yelling “Another screw up like this and I’ll bust you down to traffic patrol!”. The reasons for this are never explained. She’s just mad and she’s not going to to take it anymore.
The biggest sin this film commits is in being simply so BORING. So utterly, utterly boring. You care about nothing and nobody. There’s no sense of urgency, no real tension as the clock ticks down to the next murder. But for me, the biggest sin this film commits is wasting the talents of Pacino and Urban. Al Pacino is a legend in the movie industry, nothing more needs to be said. Karl Urban has carved out a reputation for himself as a great actor in Dredd, Chronicles of Riddick, Star Trek and more and their talents are utterly, utterly wasted in this dull, dreary excuse for a serial killer movie.
Do you remember that scene from Seven? Not the “What’s in the box?” scene, the one a little before it where John Doe finally reveals himself. Walking calmly into the police station, covered in blood, he begins gently calling “Detective. Detective” before his voice rises and he screams “Detective! You’re looking for me.” There is nothing that memorable in this film. When finally revealed, our killer is a complete stranger to the audience and his rationale for his killing spree difficult to follow. We simply don’t care who this person is, or why he does what he does, because we’ve been given no opportunity to get invested in him. In fact the film doesn’t even have a good explanation for the hangman game. When asked why he chose it, his reply is a casual dismissal of the whole thing.
“I dunno, this one just kind of stuck with me.”
If our villain doesn’t care about the core conceit of the plot, then why should the audience? The police certainly don’t seem to care. It’s over an hour and fifteen minutes before anyone even mentions that they have no idea what word it is that the killer is writing. The final nail in the coffin is a last minute attempt for a twist/sequel bait that had me rolling my eyes so hard I nearly gave myself a headache. It comes from nowhere, is entirely nonsensical given what we’ve seen to this point and is genuinely more laughable than anything else.
It’s not chilling, it’s not engaging, it’s just the last death rattle of a movie that was dead on arrival.
Hangman is available on VOD from June 4th.