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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Murder by Numbers
Murder by Numbers
Warner Bros. // R // September 24, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 20, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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B>The Movie:


The first of two films this year written by Tony Gayton, "Murder by Numbers" often seems like a remarkably ordinary genre picture in comparison to his screenplay for "The Salton Sea", a dark, interesting and occasionally even David Lynch-ian noir thriller starring Val Kilmer. As for "Murder by Numbers", however, one of the few noteworthy elements of the film is the fact that Sandra Bullock is playing a darker role than her usual ones; while "28 Days" didn't work for her in that regard, this role again seems like an obvious attempt to break away from the comedy she's known for and quite talented at.

Enter Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt), two wealthy teenagers who decide to commit murder (inspired by Leopold and Loeb). Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock, playing tough but allowing elements of previous characters to lurk in) is a tough homicide cop assigned to the case, accompanied by her new partner (Ben Chaplin, playing his nervous "Birthday Girl" character over again).

It doesn't take tough-talking Cassie long to realize that the trail leads towards the two teenagers, who try their best to escape notice and dodge questioning. The film's twists and turns are predictable, but the fact that the film operates with a nearly full-stop pace does not help sustain interest, either. The film moves along at a remarkably slow pace, with the unenergetic cinematography by otherwise talented Luciano Tovoli and underplayed peformances making the film drag on further.

The film's performances are okay at best, as well. Gosling and Pitt are decent as the two teenagers, but Bullock is mis-cast as haunted, tough cop Cassie (Linda Fiorentino, while not the same kind of draw as Bullock, would likely have seemed more convincing. Maybe even Paltrow would have been better.). Chaplin looks as uninvolved as he often does, working as awkwardly with Bullock as he did recently with Nicole Kidman.

"Murder by Numbers" rarely doesn't follow the conventions of the genre, choosing to bring little of its own ideas about how to approach the thriller genre. Few cliches (wait for the local sheriff to shout, "this case is closed! CLOSED!" and generally stand in front of Cassie's way) are left unturned (although a random attacking monkey cameo is a new one) and the film's two hour running time becomes awfully tedious. Sandra Bullock is a capable and charming actress who has continued to ruin a potentially terrific career with poor choices. Director Barbet Schroeder occasionally surfaces with an excellent film, but this is simply a cold, unpleasant and excessively slow picture that's definitely one of the director's lesser efforts.


The DVD


VIDEO: "Murder by Numbers" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Warner Brothers. A generally bland-looking picture, "Murder by Numbers" benefits from a nice transfer by Warner Brothers, but it's simply not that visually involving a film. Sharpness and detail are generally pleasing, although not exceptional. Fine detail isn't present, while the picture seems sharp and crisp, but a little on the flat side.

Some flaws intrude on the presentation, but they're not much cause for distraction. Edge enhancement is present in slight amounts, but remains minimal and only appears briefly. The print used is excellent, with only a few little specks apparent. No pixelation or any other faults are seen. The film's earthy, subdued color palette seemed well-presented, with no smearing or any other faults. Flesh tones seemed a bit pale, as well. A fine enough transfer, but a little on the dull side.


SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is rather uninspired, with little in the way of surround use (aside from the score and some mild, rather obvious sound effects) and not even much in the way of ambience or other detail. General quality, however, is very enjoyable, as dialogue remained clear and the score sounded crisp.

MENUS: Basic, non-animated main menu with a bit of score behind it.

EXTRAS: Cast & crew bios, a commentary by director Barbet Schroder and editor Lee Percy and the film's theatrical trailer.


Final Thoughts: "Murder by Numbers" slowly, dully went about its way, offering an unenergetic attempt at a standard thriller. Aside from a couple of performances, I found little to appreciate about the film. Warner Brothers provides a fine DVD edition, with little in the way of supplements, but fine audio/video quality. Fans of the movie should check out the DVD, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise.

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