Murder By Numbers (2002)
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Two smart teens, one a rich kool cat (Gosling), the other a loser type (Pitt) band together and commit the perfect murder. Female cop Cassie (Bullock) steps in with her cheap-looking leather coat to solve the crime while at the same time dealing with her own personal issues. Are you enthralled yet?
I was expecting a generic “Hollywood” type thriller and I didn’t even get that. Think a flatly written TV movie, edited by a buffoon. Cover your eyes, send the drunken party leftovers to their appointed rooms...it’s going to get ugly. My main beef with this junk is its amateurish script. It dwells in mediocrity and reeks of lazy, face-value writing. You know how it goes: cops love donuts, strong woman wears black, teen is a killer so yes, he listens to Iron Maiden, the two boys are serial killers so therefore they MUST have some homosexual thang going on and so forth. Where’s the effort? Where’s the originality? Not here. And that’s just the beginning….
The worst bit of writing/character development goes to the lead Cassie (Bullock). Ok, I get it...she’s a tough cookie. The leather jacket and the macho man-like posturing which she displays made sure I knew that. Now I’m all for an independent female lead that takes charge but why does she have to be written like a stereotypical male chauvinist pig? Too easy, Mr. Screenwriter. Where’s the sense of realism? Somebody should’ve watched "The Silence Of The Lambs" and taken some notes. Another interesting note in that respect is that when the time came for Cassie to get physical...she acted like a stereotypical “helpless female victim”. How’s that for a trip? I thought she was a rough and tumble cop?! Why was she so scared of that teen duder? Why was she slapping him like a silly willy girl later on? Take out your gun for god’s sakes! Punch the freaking guy already! Didn’t they train her ass at the Academy? SHOW SOME AUTHORITY! This poseur butch beeyatch bullshit didn’t sell me.
To make matters worse, this clunker is all over the place from a narrative standpoint. The flow is choppy (the editing is awkward at times), some scenes are clumsily handled (what was the Richard/Cassie car scene all about?), the more interesting subplots are barely explored (so much more could’ve been done with the Lisa/ Justin relationship) and the film doesn’t have a faintest clue as to how to keep its audience riveted. The flick really feels like two films. When the attention was focused where it should be: on the boyz, I was grooving. But whenever the irritating Bullock story came back, it would muck up my good vibrations. Sadly, her side of the fence painfully paled in comparison to the boyz’ tale. Her relationship with her wimpy partner Sam (Chaplin) felt trivial and fake, her actual investigation in regards to the crime is ludicrous (she’s just a bad cop yo!), her misadventures were far from thrilling (does a baboon attack excite you…COME ON!) and Cassie’s “messed up” past, that somehow connects with the murder that she’s investigating, made me want to hurl. I got sick real fast of seeing her break down and mope. GO SOLVE THE CASE ALREADY!
On the plus side, Chris Penn shows up as a porn-loving drug dealer called Ray (long time no see, bud) and Agnes Bruckner brings a breath of fresh air to the picture as Lisa, a charming love interest. But the real treats are Ryan Gosling (Richard) and Michael Pitt (Justin) who are simply amazing. They were my only anchors to the film. They made the now tired gay undertone, in regards to two male teen killers, digestible by delivering it in a restrained and ambiguous manner. Gosling in particular is mesmerizing. Mark my words...this guy will go places! He’s got it all: looks, charisma, strong acting chops and he’s Canadian. You go boy! But even the dynamic duo and the somewhat gripping situation in which they were, wasn’t enough for me to get into this movie. I wanted more background as to their motive, their relationships, what led them there and the crime itself.
In the end, "Murder By Numbers" is as exciting as a Columbo rerun. It has zero tension, lacks balance and sports an ending that not only has to take the clichéd over-the-top “Hollywood” route (with bad blue screen to boot!) but overstays its welcome like nobody’s business. This movie can kiss my pointy ass! Where’s Clarice Sterling when you need her?
Extra light here. We get a cut off finger, some light blood here and there, nothing to call Peter Jackson about.
Sandra Bullock (Cassie) tries to stretch but makes a fool of herself instead. The part is badly written and bathed in stereotypes. Lose the leather jacket and go back to romantic comedies girl. Ryan Gosling (Richard) made me stay awake with his engaging and focused performance. The dude is so "on"! Michael Pitt (Justin) plays off Gosling like a champ and contrasts him perfectly with his subtle show. Ben Chaplin (Sam) looks lost. How can he know who his part is when the screenwriter doesn’t know either? Poor guy. Agnes Bruckner (Lisa) has presence and made me smile when she popped up. She’s good. Chris Penn (Ray) plays a SNM porn loving drug dealer…can you go wrong?
T & A
Does Ben Chaplin shirtless count? You be the judge.
Sure, Schroeder slaps in a few kool shots and does some neato things with sound but most of it is by the numbers (no pun intended) with all of the panache of a movie of the week. He also failed miserably when it came to the “suspenseful” sequences. The man's either lost his edge or wasn’t inspired by the screenplay (I don’t blame him).
The seldom-used score actually betters some scenes. It’s somewhat effective. We also get “Number Of he Beast” by Iron Maiden which the teen killer plays while driving his car. You see only teen killers listen to Iron Maiden…didn’t you know that?
"Murder By Numbers" shoots itself in the head point blank by not capitalizing enough on the boyz and the murder. It spends way too much time with the bland and putrid written aspects of the film (the investigation, Cassie, her past, her see-through relationships). In a perfect “movie world” the Bullock thang would’ve been snipped out entirely and the whole flick would’ve been about the teens, their relationships, the murder and the aftermath. I recommend you skip this one. Life’s too short for crap like this. How about seeking out "The Believer" starring Ryan Gosling as a Jewish skinhead instead? Now that’s a real movie!
You might remember Ryan Gosling from the TV shows "Breaker High" and "Young Hercules".