This thinly veiled remake updates Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder to New York in the
90s, and adds a few devious – if not predictable - plot twists. Michael Douglas is
wonderfully cold as a wealthy currency trader whose value is on the fritz. Gwyneth Paltrow
(slipping into Grace Kelly mode that she’ll repeat in The Talented Mr Ripley) is less
convincing as his much younger wife who happens to be heir to $100m. Completing the
vicious love triangle is Viggo Mortensen, a starving artist in whom Paltrow finds the
pleasures she can’t find at home. As Douglas would prefer his hands on his
wife’s fortune rather than his wife, he hatches a perfect plan to kill her by
blackmailing her lover into doing his dirty work. This textbook murder thriller is
less-than-perfect despite its stylish and austere milieu. The best feature is Douglas in
the type of role he was born for (a la Wall Street, Basic Instinct), but we’ve seen
The DVD features three great commentary selections. There’s Douglas with director
Andrew Davis and screenwriter Patrick Smith Kelly. There’s producer Peter
MacGregor-Scott with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and production designer Philip
Rosenberg. Or there’s costume designer Ellen Mirojnick with set decorator Debra
Schutt. Each give engaging insight into the combined elements needed to create a feature
film; its genesis, evolution, and technical and scripting difficulties. The lighting
problem inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art was resolved ingeniously, Mortensen’s
dedication to character included him painting the pictures in his studio apartment, and
the idea for the murder weapon (a meat thermometer) was particularly, well, juicy.
There’s also lots of praise for the various collaborators. A great five-minute
alternate ending was dumped in favour of a more virtuous outcome, and commentary is again
available to explain why.
Whilst the trailer is strangely absent, the sound and picture comes in crystal clear in
full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats. There are costume design sketches which,
backed by Mirojnick’s commentary, hits home just how important wardrobe is to a film.
Despite its imperfections, A Perfect Murder’s dark visual design is best experienced
on DVD, and the many special features here make it a rewarding venture.
Shannon J Harvey
We gratefully acknowledge the complimentary use of a DVD player from Philips.
Publication date: 12/10/00