Retro Review: Murder By Numbers

Sandra Bullock moves into new territory as she dives head first into the thriller genre. Did anyone tell her there is no water in the pool?

“Murder by Numbers” is a story about Richard (Ryan Gosling of TV’s Young Hercules) and Justin (Michael Pitt of TV’s Dawson’s Creek). Richard is the rich and popular guy that every high-school kid wants to be except he is bored. Justin is the smartest and most anti-social kid in school except he has a theory.

Together these two unlikely allies formulate a plan to commit the perfect murder and follow it to the number. Their reason for doing it is just to see if they can get away with it. Bullock and Ben Chaplin are sent in to uncover the murder masterpiece.

About 20 minutes into this film you know where it’s going. “Murder by Numbers” assassinates its tension by unleashing the murderers on us so early on and then following their reactions as the case continues. I realize the film was trying to show a contrast but it’s just so dull. I have always dreaded thrillers that think they are smart by showing us the murderer during the film. How can it be a thriller if there is no tension?

Didn’t Tony Gayton, this film’s screenwriter see the end of “Scream”? Now that is the kind of angle this film should have had. Why not let the revelation and shock be just that the kids were bored instead of just showing it and filling our heads with teen angst. It could have actually been interesting if their victim had a shadowy past the murderers didn’t know of. You need more suspects and crazy angles to really make the story interesting.

I really liked the performances of the two young stars because they so embodied their characters. Gosling plays the narcissistic perfect spoiled rich teen boy to perfection. Pitt continues his strong form from his other critically acclaimed portrayals in “Bully” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”.

Doesn’t Michael Pitt remind you of Leonardo DeCaprio? The sub-plot involving the girl Lisa (Agnes Bruckner) really confused me as that plot wrapped up. Did she or didn’t she cheat on Justin?

I did get bored when the film flipped to Bullock. Bullock tries her hardest to play her detective as a sex-pot who is tough as nails because of tragedy in her past. Her character reminded me a lot of Bruce Willis in “Striking Distance” and the Ben Chaplin character was like Sarah Jessica Parker in that film.

Her character even lives on a houseboat and is an outcast of her precinct. When her secret is finally revealed it’s sort of interesting but very redundant at that point. Can you imagine if the character personalities in Bullock and Chaplin were reversed? The detective character would really be in trouble.

The film’s ending is your “typical textbook non-shock twist ending” that seems to be in all movies of this genre as of late. It must be getting harder to shock audiences.

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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