MURDER BY NUMBERS
Homicide detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) is investigating the murder of a young woman found in a ditch in the woods, with her new partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin). Evidence leads them to two students – Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) – who share a secret friendship. Cassie believes that they believe they committed the perfect crime, and is determined to prove it.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When you daren’t go the toilet during the movie in case you miss something, you know you’re watching something gripping. Murder By Numbers almost cost me an accident – and that’s to its credit. The well honed script relies on the characters to make familiar territory fascinating. Although it looks like a happy cross between police procedural and psychological thriller, the film rewards the audience with its character studies above all. Much of the time we’re anxious to know what happens next, but we’re also deeply affected by the main players, from Sandra Bullock’s credible, clever and vulnerable detective with a persistent demon, Cassie, to the difficult, blander role of green newcomer cop, Sam, by Britain’s Ben Chaplin, and the superb performances of the two complex young men whose actions drive the story, played by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. Producer Richard Crystal went in search of a screenplay to cinematically revisit the infamous 1924 Leopold & Loeb case, in which two smart young men planned and executed the perfect crime as a sort of vicious game. Writer Tony Gayton has done a great job, fertilising the basic notion to see it grow into a blooming piece of cinema. Director Barbet Schroeder, whose Barfly (1987) remains one of the most memorable in my mental filmbank, shoots this script with the kind of concentrated power that turns every scene into the most effective tool emotionally as well as expositionally. Great editing helps to glue us to our seats, and Clint Mansell’s score is at once invisible and yet a concrete platform for the inner ear. Noirish in its style, Murder By Numbers is a killer.
Review by Louise Keller:
Intelligent and thought provoking, it is stimulating to find a psychological thriller that is different. But then it is not surprising, when the director is Barbet Schroeder, whose marvellous Reversal of Fortune still haunts and whose more recent Our Lady of the Assassins confronts. A thrilling cat and mouse game between pursuer and prey, the challenge in Murder By Numbers is not who, but how the plot pans out and the mind games between the characters. The story is fascinating on various levels, and it is no mean feat that Sandra Bullock charms and convinces as Cassie, a similarly flawed, aggressive cop to the one she played in the recent Miss Congeniality, but with no comedic relief. In fact the opening sequence, when Bullock arrives at the murder scene carrying take-away food and cracking jokes could have been taken straight from the latter. Cassie is, in many ways, a rather unlikeable character, allowing her personal vendetta from her secret past to mark obsessive and at times irrational behaviour. But Bullock is intriguing and allows us to understand what makes Cassie tick. Equally riveting are the mesmerising performances by Ryan Gosling (The Believer) and Michael Pitt (stunning in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and more recently in Bully). It doesn’t matter if you have never heard of the 1924 historic case of Leopold and Loeb, on which this story is based, in which two highly intelligent young men planned and executed what they believed was the ‘perfect crime’. Gosling and Pitt are terrifying – in a way they reminded me a little of the two girls in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, seemingly so ordinary, yet concealing a depth of darkness that is deeply disturbing. Both Gosling and Pitt have a remarkable presence, while Pitt’s physical attributes make him one of the most recognisable faces of any young actor, with his distinctive trademark hair flopping over his eyes and pout that any girl would envy. Ben Chaplin is likeable as Cassie’s partner – at work and at play. There are some startling moments and Clint Mansell’s dark, complex score with its repetitive themes help to rattle our nerves. Splendid engrossing entertainment, Murder by Numbers is a gripping, satisfying film with enough elements to make you want to do the maths.
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SANDRA BULLOCK INTERVIEW at the Cannes Film Fstival 2002, by Andrew L. Urban
MURDER BY NUMBERS (M)
CAST: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner, Chris Penn, R.D. Call
PRODUCER: Barbet Schroeder and Susan Hoffman
DIRECTOR: Barbet Schroeder
SCRIPT: Tony Gayton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luciano Tovoli AIC, ASC
EDITOR: Lee Percy ACE
MUSIC: Clint Mansell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Wurtzel
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 31, 2002