David Dastmalchian in Boston Strangler. | Agents of Fandom

‘Boston Strangler’ Review: A Bland Look Into the Past

Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole break the cases of the ‘Boston Strangler’ in this true crime period piece.

Most people in the true-crime community are familiar with the case of the Boston Strangler. In the 1960s, many women were murdered by strangulation in the Boston area, as well as multiple other states. Boston Strangler highlights the work of Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole, two reporters at Boston Record American who connect and report on the titular case. While the story of two women doing unthinkable things in the 1960s is an amazing feat, unfortunately the movie falls incredibly flat.

*Spoilers ahead for Boston Strangler

Leading ladies in the workplace

This movie has a lot of issues, but there are some positive takeaways. Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin does a great job portraying a woman in a 1960s workplace. She carries herself with the right demeanor, and her American accent holds up better than expected. At the time, female writers only reported on product reviews or fashion. This is something McLaughlin aims to push away from, and write about topics that matter to her and the city.

Carrie Coon as Jean Cole is equally stellar alongside Knightley. They both portray strong-willed women, who do whatever it takes to finish stories they believe in. They have great chemistry together, and their relationship feels grounded in reality. The supporting actors (David Dastmalchian and Alessandro Nivola) also give solid performances with their limited screen time. Unfortunately, the performances are all this movie has to offer. Now, let’s talk about where the movie fails.

Carrie Coon and Keira Knightley as Jean Cole and Loretta McLaughlin in Boston Strangler | Agents of Fandom
Jean Cole and Loretta McLaughlin in Boston Strangler. Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

The Boston Strangler is a forgettable addition to true crime

I’d like to preface that I am a big fan of true crime, as well as film adaptations of true crime cases and documentaries. Zodiac, Spotlight, and Scream (yes, based on true crime) are notable movies that audiences associate with true stories. They all have multiple things in common: we care about the characters, the story is compelling and cohesive, and the adrenaline rush of trying to find the killer or suspect. Sadly, Boston Strangler is lacking all of these things.

The movie feels like dozens of scenes are cut and pasted together, creating an inconsistent pace. With a runtime of under two hours, this movie flies by, leaving audiences questioning how they got from the start to finish. This is conflicting, as the dialogue and plot of this movie are very monotone. When McLaughlin explains to her boss that she wants to take the case because of its importance, he provides some pushback, but concedes within minutes. She is persistent, but there is no argument or climax of emotion. As a woman fighting for her rights in the 60s, it seems that this struggle is fixed too effortlessly.

Not a lot happens and even when there is conflict, it is easily resolved with no questions asked, or there is no resolution at all. For example, when Cole is assigned to help McLaughlin on the case. McLaughlin is not happy and expresses disdain, saying she does not need help. Cut to the next scene and the two women are working contently on the story together with no further explanation. For a movie containing the topics of serial killers and misogyny in the work force, it feels nonchalant.

Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin in 'Boston Strangler' | Agents of Fandom
Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin in Boston Strangler. Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

Strangled expectations

I had high hopes for this movie, but there is little to no substance to it. Some things in the film are still enjoyable, like the story and the outcome. I still recommend giving this a watch if you are a true crime aficionado. However, tread cautiously as to avoid utter disappointment. As a big fan of Carrie Coon and Keira Knightley, I will always be interested in their work. They still bring forth an important story about the strength of women in their respective field.

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