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What the Hell Happened to Al Pacino?

November 22, 2017


Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in… with a paycheck! That’s the only explanation why Al Pacino, one of the finest film actors of all time, has resorted to making direct-to-video potboilers like Hangman, premiering on VOD Nov. 24. Over the past decade, Pacino has been churning out forgettable “thrillers” like 88 Minutes, The Son of No One and Misconduct at an alarming rate. He’s not as shameless as Bruce Willis, Nicolas Cage or John Cusack, but none of those guys ever attained the esteem that Pacino achieved in his prime.

At least the 77-year-old star is acting his age in Hangman, which casts him as an ex-cop who comes out of retirement to pursue a serial killer playing a deadly version of the titular game in an unnamed Southern state. The locale gives Pacino an excuse to deploy a version of the corny drawl he adopted in his overrated, Oscar-winning turn in Scent of a Woman. Still, he acts circles around his main co-stars, the impossibly bland Karl Urban (just because he was in Lord of the Rings and Star Trek doesn’t mean he should keep getting lead roles) as a detective haunted by the murder of his wife and the even more vanilla Brittany Snow as a journalist with a dark backstory of her own. The film’s best performance comes from Person of Interest vet Sarah Shahi, cast against type as a tough-talking police captain in a wheelchair.

Directed by Johnny Martin, who recently worked with, yes, Nicolas Cage on the direct-to-VOD Vengeance: A Love Story, Hangman is serviceable but nowhere near the caliber of classic Pacino cop movies like Serpico, Heat or Sea of Love. The last of these marked a major comeback for Pacino after a decade of crap like Cruising, Author! Author! and Revolution.

One can only hope Pacino’s got another career revival left in him — he’ll soon continue his run of HBO biopics (Phil Spector, You Don’t Know Jack, about Dr. Kevorkian) as Joe Paterno in Happy Valley, directed by Barry Levinson, who made one of the actor’s best films in recent years, The Humbling. He’ll also collaborate with Martin Scorsese for the first time — how is that possible? — as Jimmy Hoffa in Netflix’s The Irishman, which reunites Pacino with Robert De Niro, his co-star in Heat… as well as 2008’s justifiably obscure Righteous Kill. Oh, and Pacino’s also got a small role in the low-profile pic The Pirates of Somalia, coming Dec. 8. With any luck, to quote Al’s Scent of a Woman character, he’s just getting warmed up!

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