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Millionaire industrialist Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) has everything except what he craves most - the love and fidelity of his wife Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow), his most treasured acquisition. But Emily wants and needs more than just a role as a dazzling accessory in her husband’s world. Brilliant and sophisticated, Emily, who works as a multi-lingual translator and aide to the US Amabassador to the United Nations, has been involved with David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen), a talented but struggling artist. When Steven learns the truth, a scheme as complex as a lethal board game is put in motion. A perfect murder - with Emily as the target.

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 that before.

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

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CAST: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen

DIRECTOR: Andrew Davis

DVD RELEASE: November 3, 1998

DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

Interactive Menus

Production notes

Alternate unused ending

Two feature-length audio commentaries by Michael Douglas, director & producer, screenwriter ..

Languages: English/French/Italian

Subtitles: English, Arabic, Dutch, French, Italian, Portugese, Spanish

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