22nd Oct2018

‘Hangman’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Joe Anderson, Sarah Shahi, Sloane Warren, Chelle Ramos, Steve Coulter, Michael Rose | Written by Michael Caissie, Charles Huttinger | Directed by Johnny Martin

[NOTE: With the film finally coming to physical formats, here’s a repost of our review of Hangman, a 90s-esque thriller starring Al Pacino]


Decorated homicide detective Ray Archer (Al Pacino) partners with criminal profiler Will Ruiney (Karl Urban) to catch one of the city’s notoriously vicious serial killers, who is playing a twisted version of murder inspired by the children’s game Hangman. Every 24 hours, a body is hung revealing the next letter carved into the victim’s body. As crime journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow) reports on the crime spree, the trio must race against the clock to prevent further murders. Archer and Ruiney become more entangled in the ruthless game than they could ever have imagined, but they must keep playing to save lives and attempt to catch the Hangman.

From the get-go Hangman seems like a film out of time. Whilst its 2018 in the real world, in the world of filmmaking it would seem we’re still in the late 90s and the post-Seven era of gritty, grotesque serial-killer thrillers that proliferated VHS and DVD in the wake of David Fincher’s film. Although this shares more in common with the likes of Christopher Lambert’s Resurrection than Fincher’s Se7en. But as a fan of that movie, that fact is not necessarily a bad thing.

You see Hangman features similar cinematography to Resurrection, emphasising darkness over light and utilising shades of black and blue in much the same way a horror movie would – something which also marked Resurrection out from the pack of Se7en wannabes in the 90s. The film does however, at times, veer into TV-quality presentation, feeling more like an over-dramatic episode of a TV cop show than a movie, especially in one particular interrogation scene… Thankfully Hangman features a stellar main cast which helps give the film the kudos it needs to pull itself back from such transgressions.

Al Pacino is on fine form as Ray Archer, the grizzled older cop whose connection to the hangman killer is more apparent than he realises; meanwhile Karl Urban channels the same serious tone that he brought to Judge Dredd, giving his character a real gravitas – which in turn gives his final scene against the hangman-playing killer more pathos than was clearly scripted. And whilst Brittany Snow’s reporter may have been planned as a mere plot device to bring the audience into the film, spoon-feeding us character beats and plot points, Snow manages to imbue the role with a real passion and by the time Hangman ends, is the standout in the film. Sadly Sarah Shahi, so good in the likes of Fairly Legal and Persons of Interest, is wasted as the Police Captain of Archer and Ruiney; with little more to do than react to the headline actors.

Ultimately Hangman lives and dies with its cast. The plot is slight, the story cliched and the final denoement completely ridiculous – yet I still enjoyed the film immensely. It’s just a shame its about 20 years too late to be a real mainstream success.

Hangman is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Spirit Entertainment.


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