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HANGMAN (2017) review

December 21, 2017

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written by: Michael Caissie, Charles Huttinger and Phil Hawkins
produced by: Michael Mendelsohn and Arnold Rifkin
directed by: Johnny Martin
rated: R (R for violent content, bloody images, and language)
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: December 22, 2017 (limited)

 

Here is a movie that unintentionally reminds viewers that actors are just like you and me – they have to pay bills too. There’s really no other explanation for talented actors slumming it in such by-the-numbers drivel like “Hangman”, which is the latest in a handful of thrillers that Saban films has released this year. They’re typically bland crime thrillers or action flicks, some of which star actors who you may have wondered about lately (Antonio Banderas, John Cusack and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few), who now turn up in D2V (that’s Direct-to-Video) type movies that get released in one theater near a major city or straight to streaming platforms. That’s the kind of movie Al Pacino agreed to headline and the result is an egregious waste and one of the worst of the year.

Retired homicide detective, Ray Archer (Pacino) is pulled out of his crossword-puzzle-solving retirement by criminal profiler, Will Ruiney (Karl Urban), when a killer leaves their badge numbers as clues near his latest victim. Ruiner’s captain (Sarah Stuhl “Persons of Interest”) reluctantly agrees to the two men teaming up to look into what becomes a series of murders that incorporates the child’s game known as Hangman, while also allowing crime journalist, Christi Davies (Brittany Snow), to tag-along for some reason. As the killer (Joe Anderson) carves a letter into the torso of each seemingly random victim that he hangs, Ray and Will must track down who will be the next victim. Both detectives are haunted by their own respective pasts however and will have to pull themselves together in order to find the serial killer, who claims a victim every night at 11:00pm. (For some unknown reason a digital clock readout of the time appears on screen in random places – on a road, on a wall, etc – adding distraction from an already aimless plot)

 

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Johnny Martin, who’s spent most of his career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, directed “Hangman” (he also helmed “Vengeance: A Love Story” from earlier this year, starring Nicolas Cage), delivers a movie that would fall flat on basic cable, offering very little to keep a viewer’s interest. It may not be his fault, since the ridiculous screenplay is an absolute mess. The banal story is so obvious it bored me to tears, leaving me to focus on the confounding lines that offer unintended laughs throughout the movie’s length.

Seriously though, the dialogue here is laughably inane, but Pacino’s comatose delivery doesn’t do it any favors. During a scene in a church (located in a cemetery, I believe – I don’t know for sure, since geography here is a mystery), where Ray, Will and tag-along Christi question a former ex-con-now-reverend, David Green, (Steve Coulter), about another dead body they find. Ray asks if David knew Gene Wilson, the latest contestant in the hangman game. Ray is told the victim was the janitor on the grounds, to which he responds, “What was he doing here so late?” Okay, let’s stop right there. When you’re watching a scene like this and you wind up responding to such a ludicrous question with, “His job”, it officially confirms what kind of time-suck vortex you’re viewing. The reverend’s response is even better, “He cleans whenever he can.” Ugh. Just imagine scenes like that on repeat for the entire movie.

Another scene finds Snow’s journalist (Pulitzer nominated to boot, she’ll have you know) sneaking around Will’s desk and thumbing through his wife’s file, who was a murder victim. In an entirely predictable move, Pacino is behind her and notices what she’s doing. Aghast at what she sees, Christi tells him, “Archer, there’s something that I think you need to look at”, to which Pacino’s hangdog character asks, “You want me to look at that?” as he looks at the file. Is he a master of the obvious? I can’t even.

 

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Characters in “Hangman” aren’t just stereotypical, they make no sense whatsoever. The reason Snow’s Christi is shadowing Ray and Will is never fully developed and it seems ludicrous that they’d just accept that she’s following them on their investigation, often telling her to “Stay here”, when you know she’ll be doing the opposite. It also doesn’t help that Ray and Will are not that good at their job, often deducting details about the case long after viewers figure it out. It’s a real shame that Urban’s (who’s been so great as McCoy in the “Star Trek” movies) wasting his time with crap like this, while we can’t seem to get a sequel to “Dredd”. Snow has been appealing in the “Pitch Perfect” movies, is given nothing interesting to do either and is therefore unable to add much to the movie either. While it’s a shame to see talent underutilized like this, it’s unfortunately not uncommon.

Obviously, the curiosity here is Pacino, someone we haven’t seen successfully headline a movie in some time. Sadly, the 77-year-old  Oscar-winning actor is also the main oddity here. He’s returning to the role of detective yet again, something he and “Hangman” casting directors apparently think he can pull off in his sleep. He doesn’t pull it off. In fact, he’s downright awful and flat-out incoherent; only physically present in nearly all of his scenes. It’s baffling to behold what Pacino’s doing here. He walks around completely disheveled in straight-up bed-head, rambling in some kind of bizarre Southern accent. (Sure, filming took place in Georgia, but it’s never really clear what city this story is set in). His lines are sputtered from a half-asleep state and trail off into something utterly indecipherable. His pronunciation is a mystery, saying words in an inexplicable manner, saying “human” as “YOU-mahn”, for example, for no particular reason. Sure, it’s the polar opposite from the bombastic “Hoo-ha!” approach we’ve mostly seen from him since “Scent of a Woman”, but there’s also no trace whatsoever of the vitality and energy the actor displayed in his notable roles back in the 70s. Hopefully, Martin Scorsese can resurrect something out of him for next year’s “The Irishman”, in which he plays Jimmy Hoffa, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

“Hangman” probably only got greenlit after Pacino signed on. But it should be clear to studios that the actor hasn’t delivered the kind of performances he’s known for in quite some time. I really wish this movie could find a noose and do itself and everyone else a favor.

 

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RATING: zero stars

 

 

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