Boston is being terrorized by a series of seemingly random murders of women. Based on the true story, the film follows the investigators path through several leads before introducing the Strangler as a character. It is seen almost exclusively from the point of view of the investigators who have very few clues to build a case upon. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
In the film it is assumed DeSalvo was guilty, and it portrays him as suffering from multiple personality disorder and committing the murders while in a psychotic state. DeSalvo was never diagnosed with, or even suspected of having that disorder. See more »
When one or two strangulations of women in their own homes starts to turn into a whole series of murders, the press climb all over it, Boston is on edge and the police are struggling. Leading a new taskforce to find the strangler, John Bottomly continues the search and, after several false leads hits it lucky with a man who appears to be the one they are looking for. However, this is only half the story as Albert DeSalvo appears perfectly normal and doesn't seem to have anything to hide even though everything points to him being the serial murderer of the title.
Not being aware of the real events behind this film, it was an interesting story of me to watch even though I had to guard myself against the truism that many "true stories" will be simplified for cinema treatment. Regardless though, the film still made for an interesting detective case but also a rather engaging look at mental illness and violence. The investigation part is nicely delivered and is quite tense yes, we know who the killer is but the other suspects are still interesting and I never felt like I was just hanging around waiting for Curtis to show up. Once he does, the film changes tact slightly but is still interesting because Albert is so engaging a person I was not sure what he was playing at but it was interesting to go along with Bottomly and try to piece the man together; the closing captions show the slant of the film and this may annoy the more right wing viewer, but it didn't take anything away for me.
The cast are strong and help the tone of the film. Fonda plays his role well and provides a strong focus for the film until Curtis arrives to sweep it away from under his feet. Curtis' performance is well understated and lacking in the sort of showy acting that he could easily have done (Edward Norton did a similar role in this way but the vehicle was different and it worked); instead he is both a person and a monster, someone we are not allowed to judge but rarely invited to feel sympathy for. Support is good from Kennedy, Hamilton, Kellerman and others but really it is Curtis' film and it is he that sticks in the mind. The direction seems obvious now (especially with 24 in its fourth season) but it is clever and effective, the split screen keeping the film busy even in basic sequences while also helping the tension.
Overall this is not a pacey thriller but rather a more serious drama, although it still works well as an interesting look at the case but also at the failings of the system of dealing with violent mental illness sufferers. Its point is rather bluntly delivered but getting to it is well done and Curtis' performance is probably one of his best.
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