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Murder by Numbers
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Murder by Numbers More at IMDbPro »

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55 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Gripping despite being overly familiar

6/10
Author: Martin Bradley (MOscarbradley@aol.com) from Derry, Ireland
4 August 2005

As a hard-nosed cop investigating an apparently motiveless murder, and appearing to unravel as she does so, Sandra Bullock does something approximating to real acting in Barbet Schroeder's overly familiar thriller. Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt play a couple of high school kids who commit a Loeb/Leopold style crime, planting a number of false 'clues' so that the police will build up a picture of the killer. They even have a suspect lined up. Of course, the one thing they didn't bank on was Bullock's chip-on-the-shoulder uberbitch detective.

Schroeder does not build his film visually. It has a conventional TV movie feel to it and, despite being well played, Pitt's nerdy all-knowing geek is a bit too formulaic. But the film holds you nevertheless. Schroeder displays a storyteller's gift for how things should develop, (though a subplot involving an earlier violent event in Bullock's life seems like an unnecessary intrusion). And as the cock-of-the-walk arrogant yet vulnerable rich kid killer Ryan Gosling is the real McCoy. He can convey charm and menace in equal measure and often in the same moment and confirms his status as one of the best young actors in movies at the minute.

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36 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

By the Numbers

7/10
Author: jon.h.ochiai (jochiai@socal.rr.com) from Los Angeles, CA
30 April 2002

Barbet Schroeder's "Murder by Numbers" starring Sandra Bullock is solid work, though not particularly compelling. I am a big Sandra Bullock fan, and she is effective here as forensic detective Cassie Mayweather, who is not very likable and a broken person too. However, there is a sense of detachment inherent in the story structure. It's about the perfect murder executed by two spoiled sociopath teenagers, Richard (Ryan Gusling) who is the cool one, and Justin ( Michael Pitt) who is the sympathetic geek. Basically, Richard and Justin kill a young woman, because they have nothing better to do on a school night. They are very smart and very arrogant which is normally not a bad thing, but it just doesn't work here. Tony Gayton's script does a great job of detailing the investigation of a puzzling murder, and it is truly by the numbers. We have these two punk kids flaunting their superiority, and we just want them to take a fall.

This is not a great exploration into the dark side, like Schroeder's "Reversal of Fortune" about Claus von Bulow. There are interesting turns in "Numbers". The movie is not so much a thriller, but rather a character study of Cassie. Sandra Bullock balances the bravado of Cassie, her fear of letting people get in with her, and her secret past. Bullock brings courage and strength to a suffering character. Her partner and sort of love interest, Sam (played by Ben Chaplin), is more a plot unconcealing than a real character. Though Chaplin does the bewilderment thing very admirably. The other nice touch is having Richard and Justin involved a strange sexual attraction. The most interesting thing about "Numbers" are Pitt and Gusling.

There are many entertaining twists and turns throughout the movie. Everything is done very competently. I saw the movie about a week ago, and in retrospect I like it a little more than I did when I saw it. However, it is just not inspired work. Sandra Bullock and Barbet Schroeder deserve a lot better, and so do we.

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33 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Worth Watching Despite Irksome Plotting

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
9 October 2005

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.

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28 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Pretty Cliche, and the kids get all the good scenes

6/10
Author: tbabe29 from SF Bay Area, CA
29 November 2002

I predicted too many things in this movie and the only thing that kept my interest were the two young actors playing teenagers. They seemed to have the stronger and by far, more interesting scenes. They definitely seemed to have more to do than our star, Sandra Bullock.

Bullock always plays this independent character that lives alone and has predictable "back story" issues. I would like to see her do something a little more challenging.

Not bad, just not great. 6/10

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Very decent even if flawed

6/10
Author: BernardoLima from Portugal
27 February 2010

When the dead body of a woman is found in the woods near the river, feisty homicide detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) and her new partner, Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) are assigned to the case. Determined to solve the crime, Mayweather follows her hunches and microscopic bits of evidence, focusing her investigation on two teens: Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt), a brilliant, misunderstood nerd, and Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling), a smooth talking, spoiled rich kid. From the beginning, the audience knows that this unlikely duo has formed a secret bond that pushes the boundaries of morality and the law in their attempt to commit the perfect murder and experience complete freedom. It's up to Mayweather, who buries herself in her work in an attempt to forget her own tormented past, and Kennedy, a transfer from Vice who is working his first homicide case, to ignore the stereotypical profiles and see past the obvious in order to solve the crime.

Murder by Numbers is an interesting and entertaining small little thriller that doesn't excel but never disappoints either. The film is gripping, engaging and has this somewhat mysterious atmosphere that creates quite a bit of tension. The story does have some small plot holes but nothing that will ruin the film. Gosling delivered a great performance as usual and I can see why he felt attracted to his project, the film ends up being more of a character study then a thriller often reflecting on the human nature. Michael Pitt was excellent as the ostracized teenager and Sandra Bullock (who also served as producer) did OK as the seasoned detective Cassie Mayweather. What really threw me off and dragged the film down was not so much Bullock's performance but the way her character was written and her past story. It was extremely cliché and contrived. Still, I was entertained by what I think is, a decent and well acted thriller.

6.5/10

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Murder By The Book...

3/10
Author: loogenhausen from United States
1 October 2002

There's something frustrating about watching a movie like 'Murder By Numers' because somewhere inside that Hollywood formula is a good movie trying to pop out. However, by the time the credits roll, there's no saving it. The whole thing is pretty much blown by the "cop side" of the story, where Sandra Bullock and Ben Chaplin's homicide detective characters muddle through an awkward sexual affair that becomes more and more trivialized the longer the movie goes on. Although Bullock is strong in her role, it's not enough to save the lackluster script and lazy pacing. Ben Chaplin's talents are wasted in a forgettable role (he did much better earlier in the year in the underrated 'Birthday Girl') as well as Chris Penn, who has a role so thanklessly small you feel sorry for a talent like him. Anyway, the plot really isn't even a factor in this movie at all. The two teen killers played by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt are the only real reasons to see this movie. Their talent and chemistry work pretty good and they play off of each other quite well. It's too bad they weren't in a much better all-around film. Barbet Schroeder is treading way too safe ground here for such a seasoned filmmaker. Bottom Line: it's worth a rent if you're a genre fan, but everyone else will live a fulfilled life without ever seeing it, except maybe on network TV with convenient commercial breaks.

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16 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Entertaining Run of the Mill Thriller

6/10
Author: mjw2305 from England
13 October 2007

Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) is a homicide detective with a disturbing past, she and her partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) are called in to investigate the murder of a young woman found abandoned in a ditch. When everything seems to point at the killer, Cassie's gut tells her that things are not quite as they appear, and the real killers find that they can't hide as easily as they first thought.

Murder by numbers does have some good intrigue and suspense in the plot, and yes it does try very hard to do something a fresh and different, but in the end it just seems pretty run of the mill.

6/10 It entertains and it does have a good cast, but its just not quite sharp enough on the details.

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25 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

The numbers don't really add up

6/10
Author: Stefan Stenudd from Malmo, Sweden
14 January 2003

It's a swell thriller: a reasonably sophisticated plot, with some neat twists and turns, good camera work, and a kind of satisfactory ending. But just as with the murder story in question, the flaws become apparent at closer examination.

Most important, the characters are not sufficiently presented and explained. The deadly duet shows a very close relation, but not what keeps it so close. It would be easy enough to understand, if they were lovers. Then their quarrel over a girl also makes sense. Since they are not - as far as the movie shows us - their relation remains a mystery.

The same, to a lesser extent, is true about the detective duet. Bullock is not really able to convince with her tough exterior to hide inner wounds, although that should be easy for an actor of her experience, and her male colleague gets no room in the film to show us why he stands her, after what she puts him through the very first days they work together.

Although it's mainly a thriller, I guess this movie would have needed some additional efforts on the drama of it, the emotional processes included in it. Maybe it's all too logical - like numbers.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Murder to watch. But Sandra, I still love you!

Author: Meejoir (meejoir@zombie.co.uk) from Newcastle, England
17 July 2002

This is exactly what Hollywood does badly. Very Badly. Typically awful who-dunnit featuring more bluffs and double bluffs than you could shake a stick at. This movie is up there with horrendous plotless rambles like Copycat, Along Came A Spider and even Kiss the Girls. Horrendous in that it is possible to work out just about every plot detail in the first 25 minutes. The constant "twists" and "surprises" are tedious to say the least.

Don't get me wrong I like Sandra Bullock but when is she going to get a role that truly makes her shine. She seems to manage to choose the wrong movies time after time. I think she should maybe look to more comedy roles as I feel some of her best parts have been in films like Demolision Man and even last years Miss Congeniality wasn't too bad (ok it was was that bad but not as bad as Murder By Numbers).

Michael Pitt on the other hand is awesome. I saw him in Bully not so long ago in which he was fantastic and also last years Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He does evil particularly well. I think he could be destined for very great things.

And what the hell is Chris Penn doing in this tripe?! Nice guy Eddie is far better than this!

It was worth going to see this movie just for the guys walking around in the Slipknot costumes whenever they were going to murder someone.

On the whole this film was very poor, it scores only a ** out of ***** on the Meejoir-meter. But if Sandra Bullock is reading this, I still love you!

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A very good movie

9/10
Author: Rozinda from United Kingdom
15 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can get very tired of murder mysteries with the exception of a few really excellent TV series. Otherwise, there are just too many of these murder plot themes. I don't like the theme of the two over-clever, selfish youths killing as an intellectual exercise, I've no interest whatsoever in Hitchcock who appears to have been associated with this in some way I don't intend to find out about. But don't misunderstand me, the theme is in itself excellent, the whole movie is so well done, and of course Sandra Bullock is superlative as always.

Sandra's character is (as in Miss Congeniality) not rated by the male team she works with in spite of her obvious skills, and the boss mostly ignores her ideas, eventually forcing her aside and giving the case to her male partner. Of course Sandra works out what's going on and nearly gets killed in a very dramatic denouement. It's intriguing how the boy who worked out the murder plot can't allow her to be killed by his colleague - he has a conscience of some sort and perhaps could be "saved, while the other is a true psychopath.

Sandra's hard shell is caused by misery in her past that's tied in poignantly with the murder case. Her colleague, realising that Sandra's solving this case in spite of being balked by the dense superior, finally discovers what happened to Sandra herself in her teens, that she must now face up to and exorcise and the last scene shows her starting - we hope anyway - to do just that.

I can see from the few other reviews I've had time to read that this movie would attract a broadish group - those interested in the two spoilt boys whiling away their time with their grisly philosophical determination to trick the police and get away with the perfect murder, the relationship between them that's so cleverly depicted, the ghastly links to the heroine's past, a police theme, and some smokes and mirrors - as well as for Hitchcock fans.

For those who've queried why Bullock's character has to have a problematic past, really I think this would be a far less interesting movie if she had been just a detective trying to fathom what was going on, with a willing sidekick helping out and a male-chauvinist boss. The link between the murder victim and the detective is necessary to show the detective becoming too involved or otherwise how would she lose her arrogant boss's confidence and thereby nearly lose her life? That's hardly an original theme, in fact it's usually an extremely irritating theme as this male chauvinist boss brutally tells his frustrated but obviously inspired operative to get off the case and leave it to someone who clearly doesn't have quite the skills to solve it nice though the sidekick is. I was getting very worried towards the end re what might happen to Sandra's character as her emotional involvement in the case and special sympathy for the unfortunate victim of the crime dangerously drove her on with this case by herself.

I wasn't disappointed re the relationship between Bullock's character and her sidekick. That goes along interestingly and at times very poignantly.

The relationship between the two boys is definitely intriguing, if that's what you were interested in watching. I felt it was kept low key in some ways either because the movie-makers didn't want to get into boy-boy friendships too much, or because we weren't supposed to think emotion ruled their relationship. The movie cleverly makes you wonder which boy's in charge of the situation and there are some twists and turns and the boys show their underlying immaturity at various stages.

There one thing I wish had been clarified and that's what happens "after the movie ends" when Sandra's character arrives at the Court.... you need to see to movie to know why she's there.

Very well acted by all. I certainly can't agree with those who complained against Bullock's acting - she was superb. The part suited her very well indeed. The story is gripping even if murder mysteries aren't your thing and they aren't that often mine.

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