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Murder by Numbers (2002) – DVD Review

Murder by Numbers DVD cover art


Written by: Tony Gayton
Directed by: Barbet Schroeder
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner


  • Running audio commentary by director Schroeder and editor Lee Percy
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: No

My Advice: Avoid it

Justin (Pitt) is your average high school “freak.” He’s studious, observant, intelligent. Richard (Gosling) is your average high school “popular guy.” He’s a smartass, he’s got craploads of money, and he can bag any co-ed he wants. They seem like the last two guys that would ever get together on a project–but now they have a very special project on hand. They’re bored, you see. Bored to the point where they’re ready to commit murder. And when they do, they’ve set everything up by the book so that homicide detectives Cassie Mayweather (Bullock) and Sam Kennedy (Chaplin) will go in exactly the wrong direction with their investigation.

[ad#longpost]I hate to say it–but this film is just flat out boring and uninteresting. First of all, Bullock’s character makes so many godawfully stupid mistakes during the course of her so-called investigation, you’ll wonder how in the world she survived to make detective. The “personal demons” that she has to deal with (this courtesy of the blurb on the back of the DVD box) are never given the attention necessary to warrant making her such an unsympathetic character–much less one that enjoys hopping in the bed with Chaplin’s character just for the sheer hell of it.

You get the idea that Gosling and Pitt are decent actors (not familiar with either outside of this outing, unfortunately), trouble is they’re saddled with a storyline that’s problematic as all hell. I never was satisfied with how the two of them got hooked up together to begin with, or why their relationship had such strange homosexual overtones to it. Not that there’s anything wrong with two guys hooking up or anything, but come on, it has to make some semblance of sense. Same thing with Gosling’s character’s strange attraction for Bullock’s…and inexplicably, her attraction back. Gah. And when you’re doing a thriller, it would be nice if you had some…I don’t know…some thrilling moments or something. There’s not a single shock or mild jolt in the entire flick. These are just among the many reasons that I felt I was watching a rejected pilot for a new Law and Order spinoff.

The main feature on this disc is the running commentary by director Schroeder and editor Percy. There are three things that they spend most of their time doing during said commentary. Number one: they talk about shooting scenes of dialogue with two cameras simultaneously and how hard and cool this is. Number two: they reiterate exactly what’s happening on the screen and what it means to the story, for the stupid among you who are following along. Number three: nothing–this they do a lot of. As a result, the commentary is relatively bland and only moderately annoying–but eminently worth avoiding.

Other than that, you get a trailer. If you haven’t figured it out by now, both film and disc are pretty much a wash. I give points to Bullock for trying a different sort of character than she’s been playing in recent years, but she really needs to pick a better script next time. No real reason to even get this for free; if you get for a birthday present, ask for the receipt.

Click here to buy it on DVD from Amazon.