Murder by Numbers movie poster
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Murder by Numbers movie poster

Murder by Numbers Movie Review

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Done correctly, a movie about a smart killer cannot be topped. Look at movies such as Seven and Copycat, for example. But when a movie like this takes a more internal, character-oriented approach, things aren't so wonderful.

Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Michael Pitt, and Ryan Gosling star in Murder by Numbers, a sharp-looking yet somewhat dull thriller about two high schoolers who kill a woman for the sake of outsmarting the police. Minds work against each other, as do the characters, as Barbet Schroeder's film works its way from Point A to Point B with really not too much interesting stuff in the middle.

Murder by Numbers is not a bad movie. It has good acting, a decent script, vivid scenery, and some character relations, but sometimes too much of one thing works against the overall result. Despite the arduous attempts to make a female detective with a very interesting path, a couple of killers that have tried to think of every little detail, and an unusual love triangle, Murder by Numbers tries to hard to be deeper than it really is, and should be. I went in expecting one movie and was given another; I wanted a film about a couple of smart killers that were very capable of getting away with the crime, and that killed multiple people. Instead, the two boys killed one person and they really weren't as smart as the movie tried to suggest. Almost immediately, the killers begin making mistakes, mainly focused around a common love interest, not to mention that one of them pukes at the crime scene. Yes, they leave quite obvious DNA right at the crime scene.

I didn't really care about Sandra Bullock's back story. As it is quite obvious from the beginning, Bullock's character was stabbed and left for dead by her husband. Throughout the movie she is struggling over her past, and she is also a bitch to those in the present. Main characters can be snappy, but I really didn't like her at all. She delivers a good performance, but a likeable character would have been preferred.

As already mentioned, I would rather have seen a couple of smart killers that could have gotten away with the crime but chose to let onto their involvement, but instead these supposedly "intelligent" kids, who planned the murder for months, make stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Furthermore, the movie does not make it clear whether they want to get caught or not. On the one hand, they place some clues that lead to someone else, but on the other, they act pretty guilty whenever the police come to question them. Either way could work in a movie if done right, but make it clear what is going on.

More than anything else, though, Murder by Numbers is just a lot slower than what I was expecting. Parts of the film, when it is dealing directly with the murder, is intriguing, and some of the character development between the two killers is interesting, but there are a lot of times where it felt as though nothing important was really going on, or, at least, nothing interesting. Murder by Numbers could have been a lot worse, but that doesn't say much.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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