However, once everything is laid bare, and the court proceedings begin to dig deep into the corruption and ineptness that were prevalent in the police investigation and the judicial system the movie gets much more engrossing. Slowly, the layers that drove the kidnapper to these lengths are revealed, and they keep American Hangman in fairly original territory.
“…they keep American Hangman in fairly original territory.”
A lot of that is due to the remarkable cast. Sutherland brings a lot of weight and regret to his role, and a stumbled monologue at the end of the movie is riveting. Braunstein, despite the limited screen time, is also quite good. His confusion and anger over the situation he finds himself in is believable, and he sells the seriousness of it well. However, much of the dramatic weight falls onto Kartheiser’s shoulders, and he is terrific.
His well mannered, calm demeanor exudes a creepiness that makes his threats of harm feel genuine. The more falsehoods get stated or, the more the judge refuses to acknowledge this as a real court, the angrier and scarier he becomes. The supporting cast does an equally good job and makes one note characters reasonably relatable.
American Hangman makes a mystery out of a few things that are too easy to guess, so it takes a while to get going. However, thanks to sharp direction, an original take on the dramatic police procedural, and a truly excellent, very game cast, the movie is a worthwhile 100-minute watch.
American Hangman (2019) Directed by Wilson Coneybeare. Written by Wilson Coneybeare. Starring Donald Sutherland, Vincent Kartheiser, Paul Braunstein, Oliver Dennis, Jess Salgueiro.
7.5 out of 10 stars