Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reserved Seating Goes All Pacino: HANGMAN

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who are puzzled by this movie.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating! I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: This week we’re reviewing Hangman, a new VOD thriller starring Karl Urban, Brittany Snow and Reserved Seating favorite, Al Pacino. It tells the story of a pair of detectives (Pacino and Urban) trying to solve the case of a mysterious new serial killer named the Hangman because he leaves each victim with a letter carved into their bodies and a Hangman puzzle game (with that letter added) at the crime scene. Brittany Snow plays a journalist with a hidden motive (it’s really stupid when you learn what it is). Before I get into my reaction, I’d like to start this review with a question for Rob: Isn’t this one of the worst movies you’ve ever seen in your life?

Rob: I’ll say this: Hangman is certainly one of the blandest things I’ve ever seen in my life. There are less competently made movies out there, but it’s rare to find one so aggressively indifferent to its characters, plot, and audience. It’s one big shrug, ninety minutes of cop movie clichés (literally every cop movie cliché - I kept a list) starring generically attractive people stumbling through an uninteresting mystery. Watching Hangman is like mixing valium with red wine. There are entire scenes where the lead characters seem to forget what they’re supposed to be saying, look up at the ceiling, and then walk out of the frame. It’s kind of insane. The only one who seems like he might care a bit is Karl Urban, who was probably so honored to be working with the sleepwalking Pacino that he decided to pull every bit of meat off the bare bones he was given. The most exciting thing about Hangman might be its opening credits, which are ripped straight from Se7en in a kind of misguided declaration of intent from director Johnny Martin (Vengeance: A Love Story). This is a bad, bad movie and a very sad chapter in The Pacino Saga.
Adam: Back in 2008, Mr. Pacino had the tandem of 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill, which I thought would surely be the worst films in his filmography, but add nine years and what we have here is a near-comatose Pacino. As you said, it’s really sad. He seems lively in a pre-credits scene that I thought would serve some purpose to the plot, but doesn’t. It’s like a Bond cold open but not good. I also was a bit baffled by the accent he was trying in Hangman. It’s like sleepy, low Cajun and that’s when he’s audible. I swear that half of his dialogue is unintelligible. I agree with you that Karl Urban is trying and Brittany Snow seems to be too, but is given a ridiculous character to play that is basically just there because she wants to honor cops? Did they ever explain why she wanted to honor these two specific detectives?

This type of mystery/thriller drives me crazy because the killer isn’t identified until the third act and it’s a person that is not mentioned at all until the identity reveal. It works in something like Se7en, where there’s a theme in place or a motive, but in Hangman the motive is hidden from us as well as the identity so it’s just random who it ends up being. There’s no way for the audience to piece it together with the main characters. When the killer is revealed, the actor (who I have seen be good in other movies) does that serial killer thing where he just has his mouth and eyes wide open to show that he’s crazy. It’s so stock and sad. Plus, the hidden backstory to the Pacino character is another case (like in Righteous Kill) where the bad guy is mad at the good guy for reasons that are sort of unreasonable; like there’s nothing for the hero to atone for! Also, that fucking twist ending stinger in the last thirty seconds of this movie is downright embarrassing. I know you love Lionsgate straight-to-video movies so I was curious how this stacks up with those. What do you think?

Rob: Early in the movie, I texted you that I thought Pacino’s character was essentially just Al Pacino wandering around on the set of a cop movie without knowing why. I went through the rest of it with that scenario in my head, so my favorite parts were the three or four times when someone would present a clue or a piece of cop-related information and Al would go, “Oh, yeah? That’s good!” I was laughing pretty hard at that. Otherwise, it’s somehow better made, better cast, and yet catastrophically worse than the majority of Lionsgate DTV offerings. There’s nothing really fun about any of this. Like you said, all the characterization comes in the last twenty minutes, and by then, it’s too late to matter. I watched that last act twice (because I dozed off the first time), and I still don’t entirely know what I was supposed to get out of it.
With movies like this, I often think about the behind-the-scenes drama that led to such a bizarre final product. This feels like one of those productions that sits in development for a while - attracting big stars and above-the-line talent at first - then gradually gets moved down the schedule until interest wanes and people like Karl Urban show up as favors or to begrudgingly meet some contractual obligation. And you’re right about Pacino: he looks very weak, almost anemic. I hope he’s okay. Do you think this is the worst movie he’s ever done?

Adam: It’s bottom five. 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill and Jack and Jill also come to mind, but even he is sort of funny in that deplorable movie. I hope he’s okay, too. I was stunned by how old and frail he seems in comparison to his last role I’d seen him in, which was just two years ago in Danny Collins. He’s lively in that movie and gives a good performance, so I’m hoping he is making a performance choice in Hangman and that’s all.

I’d like to talk about a few moments that made me laugh hard in Hangman because we might as well get some enjoyment out of all this suffering. 1) The finale is live streamed on the internet even though it seems like the movie doesn’t understand the internet at all. 2) The cold open where Pacino ignores his peers request to wait for the bomb squad and he just rolls up on the guy because he sideswiped his car. There’s a very awkward bravado happening there. 3) The scene where Brittany Snow gives this passionate monologue and the response to it from Karl Urban is nothing and Pacino just goes “Okay” and they drive off. 4) There’s a chase where Urban is trying to apprehend a suspect on foot and he runs for a long time only for Pacino to cut that person off with his car, even though there is no way for Pacino to know where they ran to and no chance he catches up with them that fast, even with a car and 5) The early Saw rip-off kill where a corpse with a pig’s head swings from the ceiling and kicks Pacino in the chest and it looks like he knocks him into the afterlife. OMG...this movie is so bad.
Rob: This is one of the first Reserved Seating movies where I honestly wish we were doing a commentary track or something instead of writing. There are so, so many of those moments you’re talking about, and we don’t have the room to cover them all. The internet thing is so egregiously silly that it almost had me convinced (along with the Cop Movie Handbook dialogue) that the screenwriters have never actually met real human beings or participated in the world or its culture. How about the moment with the priest in the church? They go, “Let’s look for that guy,” and a cop says, “That guy? He’s here!” Al goes, “He’s here?” and the cop says, “Yeah!” Urban says, “Where?” and the cop says, “He’s over there!” and Al goes, “Oh, yeah? That’s good!” This scene goes on for thirty-five minutes. It’s amazing. Damnit, this always happens. I start writing thinking a movie is forgettable and end up wanting to watch it again.

Adam: Don’t forget that the movie only has “House of the Rising Sun” (a cover version no less) on its soundtrack and just plays it over and over and over to establish mood. Probably because the filmmakers couldn’t afford to also add “Paint it Black.” Or how about when they crack the case by looking at a model replica of their town complete with a running train set? Also, aren’t we supposed to be under the impression Pacino was at one time a good (not even great) detective? Now it’s just like Urban saying “The victim knew the suspect” and Pacino replies “Maybe. We will see. That could be it. I am not ruling it out. That is a possibility. It’s 50/50. It could go one way or the other.” I laughed out loud too when Brittany Snow excuses herself from the movie in the third act because she needs to get home to be abducted as bait by the killer in the finale. P.S. I am convinced this movie was made in late August after Mr. Pacino found out about my impression of him so he added a Cajun tinge to it to give me a challenge. Good news is I can do his Hangman voice good too. Nice try, Al. This movie has to be reverse engineered just to troll an inside joke between you and me.

Rob: If I grit my teeth really hard, I bet I can do Karl Urban. That’s it. We’ve got Halloween 2018 all sorted. Anything else on Hangman? It’s a Mark Off for me, for sure. Are you picking the next entry of All Pacino? What are we seeing next week? Help me, my friend. I’m as lost as Al.

Adam: This movie also has lines like “He’s not gonna stop until he finishes the game” and cops who announce to each other “We’ve got a serial killer!” Sigh. I’m voting Mark Off on Hangman obviously. We’ll do Donnie Brasco for the next All Pacino in January. As for next week - The Disaster Artist sounds good. Either that or Just Getting Started!!!!

Rob: A Reserved Seating about The Disaster Artist? Good thinking! And we’ll get to Just Getting Started. I wouldn’t miss your thoughts on it for the world. Until next time…

Adam: These seats are reserved.


  1. Saw this was available for rental last week. This has convinced me that giving this film any money would be a stupid decision

    1. This did just the opposite for me and made me really want to see it, haha!

    2. nothing beats a good trainwreck. i really want to see this too.