a critiQal film review Murder by Numbers (2002)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Richard Haywood (Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Pitt) aren't your ordinary high school kids. What sets them apart is their plan: to execute the perfect murder. They've thought everything out. Forensic evidence. Alibi. Suspect. Everything. The only thing they didn't count on was homicide detective Cassie Mayweather (Bullock).

558 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 47s)
  • ...may not be Number One in our book of mystery thrillers - but it’s better than expected.

After having seen a preview for Murder By Numbers, I was expecting a typical murder mystery/thriller. It seemed to have an interesting plot involving two scheming kids who commit a murder and then try to get away with it. But then the superstar cop shows up and they lose in the end. Typical, but seemed to be done interestingly enough to be worth a rental.

I got much more than I bargained for.

The characters were all very well acted. Sandra Bullock shows a surprising amount of acting ability, even while looking like she can’t act at all. From the get-go you think she’s become just another bad actress with a few hits under her belt (Speed (1994), While You Were Sleeping (1995)) and more then her share of duds (Two If By Sea, Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), etc.). Her acting looks pathetic, and the storyline seems to be convoluted as well, detracting more from her performance.

The deeper into Murder By Numbers you get, however, you start realizing what is going on actually makes sense, and the finer, hidden, points of Bullock’s acting are realized after the fact.

The kids (Gosling and Pitt) also give excellent performances, going through a whole range of emotions, rather then just the bland faces they produce in the beginning. Even Chaplin, who doesn’t seem to have more than a total of two facial expressions he can make, actually shows more by his body language than his face. It’s more subtle, but appreciated when recognized.

Chris Penn, who seems to be the master of bit parts, comes through with his small part here as well.

The plot of Murder By Numbers is involved. Not really the main plot, which can be summed up easily (see first paragraph), but it’s nice to see that they included a few subplots as well, which add to the storyline later on. The way the story comes together keeps you wondering until the very end. It’s not really the main plot you’re concerned about, true, but it does keep the suspense running throughout the film.

There are a few cheesy dialogue moments, and the whole film wraps up a bit too neatly, but by that point you’re okay with that. If the movie can keep you interested through some slow parts (of which there are a few), then it’s made the film worthwhile. So they did revert to a bit of cheesy moral at the end. So what? It kept me entertained, and that’s all I’m looking for.

All in all, it’s nice to see a decent role, after so many, for Sandra Bullock. I think the comedy angle is getting a bit old for her (and she’s been getting a bit typecast) so a film like Murder By Numbers should be good for her career. There’s only so many times you can play the goofy girl, after all, Sandra.

With the great suspense-building subplots, and the typical plot done in a unique way, this film deserves my couple of bucks for renting it. In fact, if I see it around, I may just pick it up to own. I think it would hold up to at least a few repeated viewings.

Murder By Numbers may not be Number One in my book of mystery thrillers…but it’s not as bad as I first assumed. Check it out for yourself today.

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