Murder by Numbers (2002)

Murder by Numbers
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Writer: Tony Gayton
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner
Seen on: 23.02.2015

Richard (Ryan Gosling) and Justin (Michael Pitt) are at opposite ends of the high school feeding chain, but they are equally brilliant and equally bored by their lives. So they hatch a plan to commit the perfect murder and actually carry it out. Homicide detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) and her new partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) are put on the case and Mayweather soon realizes that something is fishy. Quickly she finds herself in a dangerous game with Richard and Justin.

Murder by Numbers is nothing revolutionary, but it is a nice watch, especially for Cassie Mayweather who is a pretty great character and the generally good performances.


There are two things in particular that stand out in this otherwise rather run of the mill and unremarkable feature. One was, as I mentioned, Cassie Mayweather, who gets to be the typical grumpy, problematic, but brilliant cop with the new partner and the tragic back story – only as a woman. I honestly can’t recall a movie where I saw this before. That Cassie even sleeps with Sam and that things don’t really work out between them, romantically, but that it doesn’t matter for their work relationship is another bonus with her character.

The other was the clearly homoerotic subtext between Richard and Justin that always seemed the most normal part about their relationship, and not part of their pathology (it could be that I’m being overly positive with that interpretation, but that’s how it felt to me). If it hadn’t been just subtext, but actual text it would have been even better, but I take what I can get. Especially since Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling make it as obvious as they can without smooching.

murderbynumbers1But other than that the film wasn’t exactly bad but it was just not very original. It’s like a film you’ve seen a million times before and you’ll probably see another million times before you die. It was competently handled, but it never transcended the genre conventions.

So it’s pretty clear where things are going to end up and it’s not a bad ride to get there, but it’s also not a trip that will end up in a big photo album and inspiring a professional slide show tour (okay, I might have taken that analogy too far, forgive me).

murderbynumbers2Summarizing: serviceable.

2 thoughts on “Murder by Numbers (2002)

  1. it was just not very original

    It’s based loosely on the Leopold-Loeb case, as have been Compulsion (1959), as have been, to greater or lesser extent, Rope (1948) and Swoon (1992) — there may be others that I’m missing. Like yourself, I found it a pretty modest offering although undeniably enjoyable to watch.

    • I haven’t seen any of the films you mention, I think. But I thought that it was less the story that was not original (though that, too) and more the general execution of the entire film – from script to production, it was all a little formulaistic.
      But not every film needs to be an achievement in innovation. ;) As long as it’s enjoyable…

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