Murder by Numbers
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Murder by Numbers can be found here.

Gifted teenagers, Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt), commit what they think is the perfect murder...pick a victim at random and plant certain clues that will lead the police to their school's janitor Ray Feathers (Chris Penn). Unfortunately for them, they don't count on seasoned detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) being assigned to the case.

Murder by Numbers was inspired by the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two boys in their late teens (19 and 18 respectively) who murdered 14-year old Bobby Franks in 1924 Chicago because they wanted to commit the perfect crime. The script for Murder by Numbers was written by American screenwriter Tony Gayton.

When you do something "by (the) numbers," it means that you go about it in a strict, step-by-step manner. The title is taken from the song "Murder by Numbers," written by 'Sting' and Andy Summers and performed by The Police.

Richard and Justin kidnap and strangle a young mother named Olivia Lake (Krista Carpenter). Olivia was chosen at random when they saw her loading groceries into her car.

Justin and Richard planned to pin the murder on Ray, who owned a baboon. So they planted a baboon hair on the victim's body, thinking that this would provide the police with a link between Ray and the murder.

Cassie Mayweather's real name is Jessica Hudson. Years ago, her then husband Carl tried to murder her by stabbing her over a dozen times, dropping her body in a ravine, and leaving her for dead. It's because of this incident that she changed her name and became a policewoman, an attempt on her part to pretend it didn't happen and to start a new life.

That comes from a speech that Justin is presenting to his class at the beginning of the movie. His thesis goes: We cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime, a pact made with relentless fire that requires that, while some live, others die. Each of us has within us a weak aspect, eager to give up freedom for the comfort of being dominated. But we also have a will to power, that desires freedom, that insists on deciding for ourselves, each of us individually, what is good and what is evil...All real freedom is crime, because it thinks first of itself and not of the group.

The voice is in Cassie's head. It's her memory of her ex-husband's words just before he attempted to murder her.

The old lodge was constructed especially for the movie on a bluff along the ocean in California, which is where the entire film was shot. The lodge was torn down after filming was completed. The interior scenes were shot on a set.

When it looks like they're about to be caught, Richard tells Justin to meet him at the old lodge on the cliff. Once there, Richard reminds Justin of their promise to commit suicide together rather than spend the rest of their lives in jail. Richard puts a gun to his head and gives a second gun to Justin. They agree to pull the trigger on the count of three, but neither does it. Justin suddenly realizes that only his gun is loaded with bullets and turns it on Richard. Just as he's about to shoot Richard, Cassie enters the room and orders him to drop the gun. Richard grabs the gun and fires, hitting Justin in the shoulder. Richard then runs upstairs with Cassie in pursuit. Richard fakes shooting himself and, when Cassie checks for his body, he jumps on her. They battle with each other, winding up out on the rickety old porch overlooking a cliff. Richard tries to choke Cassie and push her off the porch to certain death on the rocks below, but the railing breaks and Richard falls off instead. Suddenly, the porch gives way, and Cassie winds up hanging over the edge by her fingers. Justin gets a table leg and holds it out to Cassie, helping her to climb back onto the porch.

As they catch their breath against the wall, Justin asks Cassie what is going to happen to him. Thinking that it was Richard who actually murdered Olivia, Cassie promises to take care of Justin. A few minutes later, as Cassie is looking in a mirror at Richard's fingermarks on her neck and notices the impression from Richard's ring on her neck, her partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) arrives. Cassie asks Sam to whisper something in her ear so that it looks like he's divulging information he doesn't want Justin to hear. Cassie then turns to Justin and tells him that they found a hidden camera and videotape containing scenes of Olivia's murder. Justin starts freaking. Cassie tells him that there was no impression on Olivia's neck from Richard's ring like there is on her neck. Justin finally confesses. He explains how Richard goaded him about being "free" and accused him of being a wuss, just ideas and talk but no action. "Only a truly free man could do it," Richard said, so Justin had to show Richard that he was free. He admits to being the one who actually strangled Olivia. He begs Cassie to give him a chance to start his life over. Cassie replies, "You get one life. Whatever you do with it and whatever is done to you, you gotta face it. You can't pretend it didn't happen." In the final scene, Cassie goes to the parole hearing of her ex-husband and answers to her real name.

Other movies patterned after the Leopold and Loeb case include Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948), Compulsion (1959), and Swoon (1992) as well as the radio play The Sentence of the Court (1964) and the television play Never The Sinner (1990).

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