Usually, films based on family games are of the licensed variety. Movies like Clue, Battleship, and Ouija seem to be made to cash in on name recognition and maybe cross-promote some sales. So how about a film based on the pen and paper Hangman game you used to play as a kid? Something like where a serial killer leaves a letter carved into their victims to help fill in the puzzle. It’ll have some well-known names like Al Pacino, Karl Urban, and Brittany Snow. Could be interesting right? In your heart, you already know the answer.
The Movie Itself (2/5)
The above score won’t be surprising to some, but it was a little bit to me because I like many a “bad” police drama/thriller. There is usually something worthwhile for me to enjoy even if the plot is a complete dumpster fire. Most of my reviewers I try to avoid spoilers but when a film is so bad most won’t see it, I may get into some. I’ll still stay away from any surprises, though there aren’t many here because everything is laid out and nothing is foreshadowed. You know the same info our two detectives do.
First off let’s get to these detectives. We’ll start with Al Pacino. I like Pacino, even some of his recent stuff, but this is a whole new Pacino. He’s seventy-seven years old now and apparently is still getting roles as a police officer. This is like when Steven Seagal at sixty-five plays an elite Marine S.W.A.T. commando. It just doesn’t look or feel right. On top of that, Pacino apparently went to Seagal’s southern accent coach, because he copies almost perfectly. Taking long pauses and a quiet tone does not a New Orleans voice make. I think they were in New Orleans, I can’t quite remember since this whole film is forgettable.
So just before Detective Archer (Pacino) retires he has a run in and car chase with a man in a mysterious van. They catch him but zoom in on an eerie necklace. Fast forward one year later and Archer is retired, Homicide Detective Ruiney (Urban) is getting a new sidekick in the form of reporter Christi Davies. She has a mysterious backstory that doesn’t tie into anything upcoming. At one point she gives an impassioned speech to the two detectives how she was hurt and a cop saved her life and the reason she wants to do this story is so people know what the cops go through to protect the public. She is crying in the back of the car at this point and Pacino goes “okay” and they all drive off. The funniest part of the whole film.
Christi and Detective Ruiney get a call that they are needed at a crime scene. Someone has been hanged outside a school. A letter carved in her chest. Inside on a blackboard is a Hangman game started and filled in with two letters, the newest in red. Scratched on the desk are the badge numbers of Ruiney and Archer. The next day Archer comes out of retirement to catch the guy.
The time of death is 11:00 PM and the movie makes that a significant point. This Hangman Killer (as he is dubbed) hangs someone every day at this exact time. So it’s a game for the detectives to find out where the next victim will be and try to arrive early to save them. They repeat that it is exactly 11:00 PM every night… until the detectives get there six minutes early one day and the victim is hung in the path of a train that kills him just as they are in time to do nothing. The movie can’t even stick to its own stupid rules. Why not have the scene at exactly 11:00?
Do you want to know the thing that really pisses me off about the film? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. The Hangman and carving the letters is completely and utterly pointless! At no point in the film do they try to figure out the word that each day gets more letters! You would think they would have a short scene where they try to talk it out or use a computer to figure it out. No why do that? So they could have just had a killer fascinated with hangings and not even used the game since it never was part of the story other than alluding to there being more victims to come. They could have just done that with some other plot point.
Besides the nonsensical plot, the acting was wooden and terrible. I’m not sure if I can blame the actors though. The dialogue was made up of lines where the only explanation is the writer has never talked with another human being before. It was so robotic and banal. The best part is, the writers must have known that because they make the characters use “uh” halfway through every sentence when talking to each other. Like I’ll put in some “uhs” and they’ll sound more human and real. No, that made it much worse and only highlighted how bad the lines were.
Hangman is not unwatchable, but you’d be better served by watching just about any other police thriller first. I’d advise only watching this with some form of inebriation or with a friend or two. I had no expectations going in other than liking the three main leads. Brittany Snow might have ended up being the best one. There could have been a decent movie if they either ditched the Hangman concept or actually embraced it and played the game.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
Not much surprise as Hangman is a digitally shot modern movie from Lionsgate. The detail is exceptional and there was only minimal loss in some of the darker areas, but not very often. The grading uses a lot of cool blue tones. It looks good enough and works with the film, though they probably overdid it with the frequency. There isn’t much in the way of ‘wow’ factor in most of the film. There was one interesting dutch angle with S.W.A.T. and some stairs, but other than that it was standard cinematography.
Score/Audio Quality (4.5/5)
The audio was excellent for the most part. The film is mostly dialogue driven drama and clarity and fidelity were more than sufficient. That’s even with Pacino doing his low paused accent or whatever he was trying to accomplish. Maybe his voice is strained from always yelling in his previous films. While Hangman was mostly dialogue, the actions scenes that were there had some kick and bass to it. The sub got a little workout and everything sounded full and the effects were great, especially all the broken glass… which thinking back happened a lot in this film.
The subtitles were 95% accurate. There are some missing words which I still don’t understand when transcribing English talking into English words. I mean for a nonhearing impaired person I can plainly see and hear that words that are missing. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything major and anyone that is hard of hearing won’t miss something important.
Special Features (1.5/5)
Al Pacino: Insight from a Hollywood Legend (06:36) An interview with Pacino that makes me feel a little bad that I didn’t like this movie. He seems enamored with the project and really likes the director. In true Hangman fashion, the interviewer asks Pacino to talk about his physical scenes and how he held up. His answer is “what physical scenes?” He states other than some running he didn’t have to do anything. If you bought the Blu-ray you might as well give Hangman six more minutes of your life.
Hangman: In Their Own Words (14:05) The director, producer, and the three leads all discuss their experiences with the film. Everyone is so upbeat and positive it makes me wonder where things went wrong. Of course, they are on set when these interviews are taken and haven’t seen the final product. I wonder if they were interviewed now what they would say about the film.
- 24 Hours to Live
- Blood Money
- Acts of Vengeance
- Shot Caller
- Double Cut Eco-Case
- UV Code
- Disc Art
- Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- English SDH
Runtime 99 Mins
Hangman Blu-ray Overall (2.5/5)
I really wish I liked this film better. I rather enjoy police thrillers as long as there are a few redeeming things about them. With Hangman, the writing and dialogue base for the film was their downfall. With a little more budget and maybe an extra fifteen minutes there certainly is a movie inside there somewhere. Not everyone will hate it and some might even enjoy.
I would certainly have bumped the grade if they used any part of the actual hangman game for anything purposeful. It would have been better off with a different title and a guy that just liked hanging people. He could have just sent the police a note saying I will hang one person a day, come find me. That alone is better than using a plot device that it never acts upon.
If after all this, you still are interested in the Blu-ray, it will be available Tuesday 2/27/18 from Amazon or other movie retailers.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.