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Murder by Numbers (DVD, 2009, P&S) Reviews
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Murder by Numbers (DVD, 2009, P&S)

44 ratings (42 Epinions reviews)
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1 2 3 Who Do We Not Appreciate?

Oct 13, 2002
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Ryan Gosling, everything else eh.

Cons:the eh.

The Bottom Line: 1 (Sandra Bullock) + 1 (Ryan Gosling) = 2 Reasons to see this movie. - 20 (for everything else) = You do the math.


Murder by Numbers tries to meld together the psychological aspect of crime with a 2 hour voyage of discovering the truth. In some movies this means 2 hours of action and whodunnit scenes leading up to conclusion that concludes with the killers capture. In others, the 2 hours is left to get inside the head of the killer, why he or she kills and can he or she be caught. Murder by Numbers tries to be both – but is unsuccessful and instead finds itself mainly being a bore and an exercise to not only enjoy, but to also stay awake.

From the very beginning we know who is guilty and who is not. The movie then begins to dwelve into why these killers have killed and what type of relationship they have with each other. On one side we have Richard Haywood/Ryan Gosling a popular boy at school who is rich and on the other Justin Pendleton/Michael Pitt who is from all accounts a genius yet unattractive even in a gothic sense. By high school standards, Richard and Justin should not be friends. Yet together they plan out the ultimate murder to make a statement towards the society that they each in their own way find themselves trapped in. Plus, and although not completely explored within the context of the film – there’s a hint of attraction between the two, a relationship not just about the murder they have committed, but one on a sexual nature.

Once Richard and Justin have explained (directly to the camera in some scenes – kind of weird to be breaking the fourth wall), Cassie Mayweather/Sandra Bullock is introduced. She’s a dectitive who is hard to work with as her new partner Sam Kennedy/Ben Chaplin soon finds out. The movie slowly reveals that Cassie was once the victim of a crime, stabbed 17 times by her then husband – a man who is now up for parole, which means on top of solving the crime before her, she has to decide to attend her husband’s parole hearing. Cassie is dedicated to her work; she’s the type that looks beyond the easy clues and tries to ask “why” and not “what” with every step she takes. She also uses men for sex only to toss them away and off the bed when she’s done.

I’ve basically described the whole movie by this point. What is perhaps missing is the very slow pace the movie takes to unravel to the foregone conclusion. Half of the screen time is spend listening to Richard and Justin discuss the crime they have committed and their beliefs on how they believe they are going to ultimately come out on top by committing the ultimate murder. The other half is given to Cassie, who drags her feet through most of the film even though her slow thoughts ultimately lead to the truth – a truth all of her other police comrades are fine skipping over.

The one thing the movie doesn’t quite get heavily into is the relationship between Richard and Justin. There are times where it seems the two are about to engage in a passionate kiss, only to then have a scene with Richard having sex with Justin’s girlfriend just to prove to him that he can, and that she “spreads like peanut butter”. Richard is tough love to Justin, but Justin is ultimately the smarter one – so their relationship flips over and over, unsure of who is really on top.

As for the ending, the movie throws away any attempt it had to be a taunt thriller and replaces it with a quick action scene following a potentially horrific but soon becomes heroic event. Finally this event will satisfy all those who were expecting yet another Ashly Judd style movie (High Crimes, name, name) if they are in fact still awake by this point in time.

Murder by Numbers will probably be the launching pad for Ryan Gosling. Although his performance in Murder by Numbers is engaging on a very small scale – future producers, directors, and especially casting agents will probably see him and pick him up for future movies. He’s got the looks, the attention to exactly where his eyes are in each emotion, and a calmness that can induce fear, and a fear that can induce silence. Michael Pitt on the other hand is quite well cast as the Generation X-gothic type, although he is slowly becoming typecast into that role. Maybe it is time for he, like how Sandra Bullock did in this film, to start looking for work outside of what they are normally expected to do.

There is one thing that Murder by Numbers doesn’t completely ask nor answer. Is it feasible for two high school kids to commit what they believe is the perfect murder? Granted the two in this movie are ultimately caught – but the amount of detail they take to try to get away, the thought processes they go through, are quite chilling especially in relation to why this movie is even called Murder by Numbers in the first place. That these kids, through the use of an innocent library card, have read through countless chapters on what investigators do, on what they look for, and how a killer could get away with the crime.

Overall, if you missed Murder by Numbers in the theater, consider yourself fortunate. The movie clearly is not worth the price of a movie ticket – and is only slightly worth the cost of a rental. Be warned however that the movie is slow, and not slow in really an overall good way. It is an exercise to enjoy, a better exercise than watching yet another Ashely Judd crime drama – but still for all of its attempts to be a movie where the viewer must commit themselves more to the film, the movie is long, dull, and for some, very easy to fall asleep too.


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