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Saturday, January 12, 2019

American Hangman 2019 * * * Stars

American HangmanDirector: Wilson Coneybeare
Year: 2019
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Vincent Kartheiser, Joanne Boland

Boom bang boom! "Do I have your attention now?" OK, here we go:

A comatose, retired judge gets kidnapped, locked up in a basement, and put to trial for supposedly sentencing an innocent man to death. This so-called legal action involves only a defendant and a prosecutor while being broadcast live to millions of people. That's the gist of American Hangman, my latest review. "Hangman" starts out as a preposterous, Hostel-style torture flick only to submerge into a slow burn, mano-a-mano character study. I couldn't help but be reminded of star Donald Sutherland being in a similar predicament via 1989's Lock Up.

Image result for american hangman movie scenesNot released in theaters, rid of empathy, and taking place in a hub unknown to its audience (the setting kinda looked like Atlanta or I guess, Kansas City), American Hangman presents a fresh take on the tired, old adage of social media power. Just imagine Money Monster as a decently made form of Renaissance drama and that's what you get here. With "Hangman", newbie director Wilson Coneybeare creates more tension, more strain, more wallop, and more edge-of-your-seat suspense than Jodie Foster could ever muster. He also gets great, smoldering work from his leads in Sutherland and Vincent Kartheiser (they respectively play the aforementioned judge and the snide kidnapper).

So yeah, the supporting performances in "Hangman" are sadly a little wooden and out of place (how unnecessary is the dude who noshes on finger food and stupidly watches the mock trial at a bar?). And yes, the ending is quite a downer as it paints society, the police force, a smug attorney, and various news people as silently shooting themselves in the foot (no pun intended). Still, American Hangman is wholly original with an intricate script, a wake-up call to piss-take justice, and some well placed story-boarding. It ruggedly "hangs" on for a three star rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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