"Killing Time" or "Bored to Death"
Murder by Numbers
Review by Ross Anthony

A TV style murder mystery with a few big screen moments (including one that seems to be made for a different film altogether). Two rich high school seniors pass time and "define their freedom" by committing a seemingly random crime. This unlikely team (the dark intellectual and the bored jock) carefully plans a morbid murder that keeps Sandra Bullock (as Detective Cassie Mayweather) guessing.

The homicide plot unfolds alongside the story of the criminal investigation via TV-style conjecture. Bullock plays a brazen, but seasoned detective, breaking in her rookie partner. To that stereotype add a chip on her shoulder large enough to hide a pestering vulnerability (apparently the result of some earlier tragic event). All of which make her a cop movie cliché with a sexually aggressive quark. Ben Chaplin as Sam Kennedy, her baffled, but good intentioned partner, performs well -- fielding as best as humanly possibly Cassie's toggling intentions. However, as the sharp, yet callous jock, Ryan Gosling delivers the most stunning performances.

Early on, the film struggles to find its groove, wounded by some awkward editing in storytelling and heavy-handed photography. At about the halfway mark, the real drama creeps in, escalating the film from a B- to a B+. However, a very Hollywood action insert near the end knocks the otherwise "thought-based" production back to a B.

The complex relationship between these two twisted boys is also quite compelling (in a sick sort of way), but feels abbreviated. Though I don't have any suggestions as to where (in time or location) the filmmakers could have included pre-story or elaboration on them. Meanwhile, the simpler tensions between Cassie and partner Sam are handled with greater care and priority.

Producer Richard Crystal, fascinated by the historic 1924 Leopold & Loeb case, initially conceived "Murder by Numbers." That case involved two intelligent young men, who concocted a murder/kidnap scheme as an elaborate game in hopes of getting away with the "perfect" crime.

  • Murder by Numbers. Copyright © 2002.
  • Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Ben Chaplin, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner.
  • Screenwriter: Tony Gayton.
  • Directed by Barbet Schroeder.
  • Produced by Richard Crystal, Susan Hoffman and Barbet at CastleRock/WarnerBros.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:56 PDT