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Murd3r by Num8ers: You can't pretend it didn't happen.
Apr 25, 2002 (Updated Apr 26, 2002)
Review by flamepillar
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Psychology. The two boys. Sandra Bullock. Unpredictable.
Cons:Some moments are a little too convenient.
The Bottom Line: Murder by Numbers is a psychological thriller with a couple of psychopathic geniuses who believe freedom itself is a crime, among other things.
We have a winner! As much as I jabber on about going back to see a movie twice, I have not wanted to enough to actually make a second trip since Monsters Inc. Well, Murder By Numbers is the latest to worm the cash out of my pocket for a second viewing. And man, is it ever grand.
Recommend this product?
Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) takes a stab (or 17) at what has turned out to be perhaps her greatest thriller since The Net. Murder By Numbers tells the story of two high school seniors, who may or may not have committed the crime of killing a young woman and dumping her body by "the creek". You know the one. Numbers actually have very little to do with it. If you ask me, they're just bait for the fans of Se7en and Th13teen Ghosts.
Murder By Numbers cuts to the chase right away. Starting off with a hasty introduction, a sudden and full assault of developments comes rolling in, all accompanied by some nicely spaced hints pertaining to Cassie's past. It's not just a movie about "who done it". It is a movie about freedom, or the lack thereof. It is a movie about standing up. No wonder they call this a psychological thriller.
Seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
It is a sad truth, but a lot of people will be able to identify with Cassie. I see them all the time. She is one of those if only you knew what I have been through, you would understand so well why I act the way I do kind of characters, big time. She knows firsthand what a person is capable of, and she can't help but see that raging potential in everyone else. It's sympathy-inducing, yet frustrating at the same time. Otherwise, Bullock is just her usual cutesy self with a dash (or maybe a rash) of horniness that I, for one, haven't seen so much of in her before! Oh yeah, and she broke a guy's nose with a cat.
Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) is just your typical nice-guy cop who is new to the scene, much like Tom Hanks' fellow investigator on Turner & Hooch, David (Reginald VelJohnson will always be Carl Winslow to me). Next to Bullock, Chaplin barely has room to get an edge in on the character development department. Whatever wit or wisdom he needs, he has it already. So he's not exactly a show-stealer, but he fares well enough with what he's got.
The two boys are fabulous. They alone account for at least half of what I love about this movie. First of all, having two "killers" in the movie makes it a lot easier to tell what's happening inside their minds, since they can communicate with each other a la Face/Off, rather than just one killer who has to communicate either with himself or the good guys, as in What's your favorite scary movie? or There is a bomb on your bus.
Ryan Gosling as Richard Haywood is a boy-band lover's dream come true, but carries all the grace and suave attitude of Edward Norton in Primal Fear. His partner, Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt, remember Henry in Dawson's Creek?) is much the same way, except that he is the geeky closet dictator, unpopular and outspoken political genius, and just an all-around smart kid. If you've raised children to this age, you probably already see how these two are going to end up.
Justin delivers a stunning sort of soliloquy around 1/3 of the way in, where he just goes right out and tells about the planted evidence, what it's supposed to mean, and how it will confuse Cassie and the gang. He's actually telling it to his friend Richard, but the way the scene is shot, it's like he's telling it straight to the audience with disarming level-headedness, his eyes only inches away from making contact with the camera. He is Edward Furlong all over again. I just love that scene.
Also notable is the scene in which the boys are interrogated. Cassie, elite detective that she is, lays out all the random, overlooked circumstantial evidence, and much like Justin, goes into her own narrative on what she thinks it means. This, of course, is accompanied by several flashback shots, so you can see what confused you the first time and make sense of it. Some might construe this as treating the audience as if we're too stupid to remember, but I for one appreciate the straightforwardedness of the approach.
The PROFILE doesn't fit the profile!
I won't sit here and tell you that the movie is flawless just because I drop it a five-star rating. There are moments that either border on, or cross straight over into, being more than a little convenient. In one scene toward the end, Richard comes off like he knows all about Cassie's "trust problem". The murder victim's CD player ends up with the same CD in it (and on the same song) that Cassie had just played the night before coming to check the place out. (It's "I Shall Believe" by Sheryl Crow, of all things. See http://www.epinions.com/content_1383768196 for more on that if you're absolutely dying to know what that song does to me) At first I figured she was being stalked already! The shots of Cassie looking warmly at the girl's pictures as the song played, though, pretty much confirm that it only meant she could relate to the victim that much more. Still kind of convenient though. A second murder occurs and it happens on the same exact time of day, for no other apparent reason than just to have an excuse for using num8ers in the title. I suppose, though, that that fits along with the whole insinuation that "the killer wants to get caught".
"Crime is not an idea, it's an act. Anyone can think it; only a free man can do it."
As much as I love this quote, I also know that it, and even the entire movie, perhaps, are a clever way of trying to coerce some people into thinking that only killers are totally free. True, you have to be pretty darn free to be a killer. BUT! You don't have to be a killer to be free. So don't go gettin' any ideas now ya hear :)
I never paid much attention to scriptwriting before. Of course I would hear what the characters said, I just never watched much for how they said it. The character of Justin alone, his range of emotions in spite of his overly generic appearance, the way he spoke everything was so totally smooth and came out like he didn't even have to think about it. He had some great lines in this movie, but then, so did everyone. I don't know if I would call Justin Oscar-worthy, but man if it didn't knock my socks off. It's been a long time since I've seen someone say "Go to hell" and make the kind of impact that Justin does when he says it.
There's really nothing else I could say about Murder By Numbers without going into some grossly obese detail (as if I haven't done that already). So let's just say, I liked it a lot. Psychology rules.
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