Murder by Numbers (2002)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  19 April 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 41,832 users   Metascore: 50/100
Reviews: 301 user | 135 critic | 35 from

Two gifted high school students execute a "perfect" murder - then become engaged in an intellectual contest with a seasoned homicide detective.



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2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ray Feathers
Captain Rod Cody
Asst. D.A. Al Swanson
Janni Brenn ...
Ms. Elder
Restaurant Manager
Mr. Chechi
Olivia Lake, the Victim
Male Officer in Flashback
Lab Technician


Richard Haywood, a Californian high school's coolest kid, secretly teams up with another rich kid in his class, brilliant nerd Justin 'Bonaparte' Pendleton, whose erudition, specially in forensic matters, allows them to plan elaborately perfect murders, just for the kick, for which they set up Richard's marijuana supplier, their school's janitor Ray Feathers, as a psychotic serial killer. The case is assigned to detectives Cassie 'the hyena' Mayweather, who carries a sequoia-size chip on the shoulder from her previous life, and her brilliant new partner, Sam Kennedy, who just transferred from the vice squad; they can work together very well, and even fit romantically, but fall out over different professional attitudes towards the investigation, which Captain Rod Cody and her understandably vindictive abused ex, Assistant D.A. Al Swanson, soon ban her from when she disobeys instructions and hand to him. When the plotting boys both dig class-mate Lisa Mills, their unnatural bond comes ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Justice will be served See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language, a sex scene and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 April 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Foolproof  »

Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,307,394 (USA) (19 April 2002)


$685,907 (Australia) (15 November 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The high school scenes were originally slated to be filmed at San Luis Obispo High School. The superintendent changed his mind before filming could take place due to the content of the script. See more »


When Justin and Richard are carrying the body to the trunk of the car, they are not wearing gloves. This would have left fingerprints on the plastic wrapping the body yet none were found. See more »


[first lines]
Richard: Shall we say the words one last time?
Justin: One cannot live fully without embracing suicide in crime.
Richard: Say it.
Justin: A pact made with relentless fire that requires that, while some live, others die.
Richard: On three...
in unison: One, two, three
[gun shot]
See more »


References Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994) See more »


What Led Me to This Town
Written by Karen Grotberg, Gary Louris, Timothy O'Reagan and Marc Perlman
Performed by The Jayhawks
Courtesy of American/Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Worth Watching Despite Irksome Plotting
9 October 2005 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Two rich, bored high school boys (Justin and Richard) enter into a demonic pact, which leads to a battle of wits between them and a smart, determined female detective (Cassie) who is haunted by her own demons. The film's underlying premise is certainly relevant to contemporary American culture, but the story is poorly plotted. The POV keeps shifting back and forth between the two boys and Cassie.

I was not interested in Cassie's tortured past, nor did I care about her relationship with her assistant, Sam. These plot points interfered with the more compelling story of two young men hypnotized by the "philosophy" of crime.

Indeed, the film works when it focuses on Justin and Richard, and their efforts to second-guess, initially the cops and then later, each other. Michael Pitt (as Justin) gives an adequate performance, and Ryan Gosling (as Richard) is more than convincing. I would have reduced the time spent on Cassie and Sam, and added some back story about Justin and Richard to give viewers more insight into the boys' motivation.

The film's visuals are adequate. There's some good camera work in the film's first and last twenty minutes. In keeping with the film's many cinematic clichés, the climax is a melodramatic cliffhanger ... so to speak. Still, the suspense was gripping. It kept me guessing as to who was going to do what to whom.

Despite a convoluted and, at times, confusing plot, "Murder By Numbers" is worth watching for its provocative premise, its suspense, and the acting of Ryan Gosling.

33 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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