A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hangman is a violent serial killer thriller starring Al Pacino and Karl Urban. Expect plenty of gore (much of it in the form of naked, mutilated murder victims) and regular use of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more). There's also fistfighting, a car crash, chases, death by high-speed train/explosion, and a scene in which an angry cop executes a suspect. Clearly, it's not for kids. But is it for anyone?
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HANGMAN, Detective Archer (Al Pacino) is brought out of recent retirement by his friend, Detective Ruiney (Karl Urban), when a serial killer in Monroe, Georgia, cites their badge numbers at the scene of a crime. With plucky New York Times journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow) tagging along, the detectives go from crime scene to crime scene, trying to figure out who's carving letters into victims in a game of hangman.
Is it any good?
Lots of people get their necks stretched in Hangman, but the story and characters don't hang together at all. So the real mystery is why so little thought was put into this film. Its idea of research into police procedure and journalism appears to be watching other B movies, and the result is a demonstration of the law of diminishing returns. Crime scenes were apparently made for contaminating, and cops let a reporter tag along for suspect chases, body discoveries, and more. (By the way, this tiny town with a median household income of $27,500 has an amazingly high-tech police department.) This isn't a documentary, but the film's blithe disregard for logic makes it feel like an unmoored series of scenes of people discovering mutilated corpses, with no emotional or dramatic stakes. The intended mystery is a cheat in every way, down to the solution to the titular word game. And the biggest cheat of all is that the protagonist, a detective, forgot the details of his own wife's murder a year ago. (Also, not sure what accent Pacino is doing, but it suggests The Bronx and Alabama. In his defense, no one seems to be rooted in a particular place, much less Monroe, Georgia.)
Helping build the zero tension in the film is its lack of originality (it's a blatant ripoff of Se7en and countless others) and clockwork nature. No, the first suspect they chase down isn't the killer. No, the good guys aren't going to die in the first reel. No, they're not going to stop the bad guy for several more letters. This is one of those movies in which the killer is either Batman or someone with a film crew and a crane at his disposal to accomplish his elaborate setups. And why the villain involves the protagonist to begin with is never explained. And what his ultimate goal is, is never explained. And ... you get the drift. On the plus side, the shots are nicely lit, and Urban looks dashing in an impeccably tailored wardrobe that definitely doesn't say "detective, Monroe, Georgia." (Speaking of the setting, this clump of murders would have to set some kind of record in a city of only 13,200. And apparently no black people in the city, even though it's more than 42 percent black in real life, according to the current census.) If you're fond of games with letters, Words with Friends or Scrabble might be more fruitful options than Hangman.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of movies like Hangman. Which audience do they serve? When there's no actual mystery for viewers to unravel, what are the elements that motivate them?
Why do you think so many movies and TV shows deal with violence that's sexual in nature? What message does that send?
When you see certain actors in movies, do you have certain expectations of those movies?
For kids who love mysteries
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.