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Murder by Numbers (2002)

Directed by Barbet Schroeder Written by Tony Gayton

   Summary: Socialite Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and school genius Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) are not the type to hang within the other’s crowd. But are brought together for one purpose. To experience the feeling of getting away with the perfect murder. Carefully calculated by Justin, who was the brains behind the operation. Richard intended to be the sadist with an irresistible devilish charm. As they pick their victim at random, they plan each detail down to the very fibers they would place along with the body, nothing seeming too big an obstacle. But when a Veteran Detective gets attached to the case with help from Vice transfer Sam Kennedy, (Ben Chaplin) things appear to be adding up too sequentially. Not sitting right with Cassie Mayweather, (Sandra Bullock) who knew there was more than leading on. Refusing to call it quits even after her partner takes over and follows through with the school’s Janitor (Chris Penn) taking the blame. Following through on several leads to find out what these two High School students were really up to.

   It wasn’t difficult to imagine Bullock as the cutthroat and “manly” cop having just come off Miss Congeniality. But that went right out the window when she got waxed and plucked. She also had a much more traumatizing background in this case. Which bothered me because it’s not as though they dance around this. She constantly is covering her chest (where her scars are) and keeps getting contacted about a Carl Hudson case that clearly holds sentimental value. When she was 16 the cutest boy in school wanted to date her and she married him later that same year. Within the next couple, was put in the Hospital from a bad beating which eventually lead to another incident of being stabbed 17 times and left for dead. Knowing full well that the pretty boys in High School met their peak once they graduated. Holding a hint of attraction for Richard that she compared to her former life as Jessica Marie Hudson. Having a record of sleeping with her partners but pushing them away gained the nickname, “Hyena,” which she didn’t seem to mind. The pairing of Bullock and Chaplin as partners worked quite agreeably in that they were able to switch roles for a particular scene that was hilarious. Chaplin was able to portray the feminine aspect to the role perfectly and to see Sandra act with such forwardness was also pretty good for a laugh.

   Speaking of which, why would her character act in a similar manner that I’d otherwise assume would bring back memories of her former husband? Though covering up her scars and handing out cold glares at anyone who dared mess with her. I would think it would be one or the other and not so much as dancing finely in the middle of a rather difficult subject. As well, did she become a Detective to stop guys like her husband? Or was it simply an avoidable aspect in her life that she took control of by becoming involved in the law? Because if indeed the first reason, her taking on of a masculine persona would make even less sense.

   The story itself was intriguing. Michael Pitt seems fitting for either the awkward nerd or psychotic killer so quite the ideal role in getting both conjoined. When I saw Seven Psychopaths, I expected him to have a longer part but was kind of disappointed. In Funny Games the same formula didn’t work for myself. It had its moments and Tim Roth was nice to see but if I had to choose, this would be the better film. The extremes that the characters went to in order to not get caught were impressive for a bunch of Seniors. If not for wonder cop and her “feelings” they may have gotten away with it. However it seemed as though there were several unresolved issues between the two boys. Even getting pictures of them both to make for a symbol. How cute. However, whether intended or not, Richard was adorned as though a representation of evil. Or rather, the little Devil most can attest to having heard at least once in their lifetime. When Justin begins spending time with Lisa, (Agnes Bruckner) it could have been upsetting to lose a power he felt was taken from him. Or simply that she had slept with Richard before moving her interest onto the other. Maybe the spoiled rich kid just liked having all eyes on him. His actions of making a sex tape to show his friend of being the only one that understood him seemed like quite the lesson.

   When they do bring in both boys to question them was about the most tense it got. The camera pan from one room to the other was nice. The whole time I kept waiting for Richard to break. He was sweating and externally freaking out that when his lawyer does finally get there you become so agitated; close! We also see Richard’s true colors in the end when Cassie begins putting the clues together and they meet at the cabin they had their get together’s at. Leading to a suicide pact that the two had made, should this day ever came. Sitting across from the other and after counting down and a single shot going off, Richard opens his eyes to see Justin’s looking back at him. A twist or two coming undone before the final “battle” and justice taking it’s ever sweet time.

  By this point I had already seen the film a couple of times. Which may have been where the problem lay. Bullock gave a strong performance but at the point in time, was what we had come to expect from her. But not many strong women are shown as Detectives so it was nice to see from that perspective. It just didn’t have any staying power. These films are easy to find, referring to Crime Drama’s of whatever sort. And unless you have an amazingly breathtaking story or unforeseeable twist for the killer, than there’s no need to push the film to the 2 hr. mark. I found myself getting bored midway and it’s been a while since I’ve seen this. Though it does make for a good first watch. It just felt like the information on her past could have been divulged differently and if they tightened up some of the scenes that it would have been better executed.