Murder by Numbers
3 out of 5 stars
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Sandra Bullock has an uncanny ability to make a decent film from mediocre material, and this is no exception. She stars here as Cassie Mayweather, an antisocial forensic detective on the central California coast called in to investigate a mysterious murder with the latest in a string of new partners (Chaplin). Evidence points rather clearly to a seedy drug dealer (Penn), but we know different! Two bored teens--a cool rich kind (Gosling) and a brainy goth (Pitt)--have partnered to commit the perfect crime. And they'd get away with it if Cassie weren't on the case, of course.

So there's the problem: For all it's tricky plotting, this is still just another formulaic murder movie. We know both whodunit and that they will be caught ... so the only pleasures lie in watching how it happens. Fortunately, there's enough skill involved to keep us engaged. Schroeder has a terrific way with he camera, keeping the characters and situations dark and interesting, dropping little hints and letting the world outside intrude just a bit. Bullock is, as usual, terrifically likeable ... with a slightly larger dark streak than usual. Gosling (The Believer) and Pitt (Bully) are as excellent as always--and frighteningly realistic. So we can almost forgive them when the machinations of the dreary plot start taking over, adding silly cliffhangers (literally) and pounding in a completely gratuitous moral message.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 10.May.02

dir Barbet Schroeder
scr Tony Gayton
with Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin, Chris Penn, Agnes Bruckner, RD Call, Tom Verica, Michael Canavan, Janni Brenn, Adilah Barnes, Krista Carpenter
release US 19.Apr.02; UK 28.Jun.02
02/US 2h00

Rule No 1: When trying to commit the perfect crime, do not antagonise the investigating detective (Bullock and Gosling).

bullock gosling pitt chaplin
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
let the mind games begin send your review to Shadows... "Sandra Bullock plays a crime scene investigator no one wants to work with - her co-workers have dubbed her Hyena, which we learn is due to the fact that female hyenas have a fake penis ... okay! A body has been found, dumped in the woods of course, wrapped in plastic with a finger amputated and several stab wounds post mortem. Some clues are tracks from expensive type boots. All this leads them to a suspect, but Cassie Mayweather (Bullock) doesn't agree. There are two high school students, bored rich kids - one a classic nerd with no friends, one who is super popular and knows he is cool. The question is: Can two rich high school kids commit the perfect crime? The answer is sorta - depends on who is following the evidence. And if you have an investigator like Cassie Mayweather who has had personal and too-close experiences with the most popular guy in school. I have to say I liked this movie, it was not the usual cute, lovable and sexy Sandra role. She actually seems to be trying hard to NOT be liked - she plays a serious brainy character. I liked the new serious Sandra. It was fascinating watching the mystery unravel, and silly watching the boys wearing plastic suits to prevent them leaving evidence at the crime scenes. I think it will not go down as a great movie - somewhat predictable, but okay another one I liked. I am just a movie lover." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 30.Apr.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall