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Murder by Numbers
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Reviews & Ratings for
Murder by Numbers More at IMDbPro »

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54 out of 67 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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33 out of 41 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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32 out of 44 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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26 out of 35 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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16 out of 23 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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11 out of 14 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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25 out of 42 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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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Very decent even if flawed

6/10
Author: BernardoPinto 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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10 out of 13 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 8 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing, fascinating, compelling... (*spoilers*)

10/10
Author: Candace from B.C., Canada
20 September 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, so I've read most of the reviews on this movie, as well as comments left by visitors to this site, and the feeling I get is that most people who wrote reviews really didn't like this movie. That's why I'm writing now-I represent the minority because, I did. I admit, I went to see the movie because I am very impressed with Ryan Gosling's compelling abilities, and the projects he has been a part of lately have been nothing less than incredible. He is an amazing actor. That aside, I wanted to see this movie because it seemed intriguing to me... why? Because it's a whodunit where you know `whodunit' from the start, and that's kind of unusual.

As the plot goes, two teenage boys endeavour to commit the "perfect crime" because they believe in a twisted philosophy that only through committing acts of crime are human beings truly free-the uninhibited, and let's remember, guiltless, acting out of one's will. The relationship between Richard and Justin was complex, hinted at homosexuality, and was brilliantly acted by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. Gosling was the manipulating, controlling smooth-talker, and Pitt was the extremely book-smart, socially awkward outcast. Enter Sandra Bullock's character, who it seems most people didn't particularly appreciate. I think when people see she was the executive producer they automatically assume any role the actor has in it is a self-glorification thing. I didn't see that as the case here. Without "Cassie's" personal history about the ex-husband that nearly killed her, who, not surprisingly, shared similar traits with Richard Hayward, she never would have pursued her instincts about Justin and Richard. The case was seemingly airtight against Ray, the unsuspecting school janitor and friend of the boys. Even when the boys are questioned near the end of the movie neither Bullock nor her partner have much solid evidence about them other than the fact that they lied about knowing each other, and the vomit Justin left at the sight. Therein lay the genius of the movie because the philosophy the boys were trying to prove through the act of killing, the guiltless acting out of will as `true freedom,' ended up working against Justin, who ended up having a conscience after all (and ended up leaving part of his conscience at the body dump site). Without that crucial piece of evidence, they almost had a "murder by numbers." And to readers out there who have puzzled over the title as much as I have, I looked in to it and found that something done "by numbers" (such as a painting) suggests careful and critical planning and exacting. There's also a song by Sting called "Murder By Numbers", but that's beside the point. :)

Many readers questioned the necessity of the relationship between Cassie and her partner, but I think it really meant to show how cynical and manipulative she had become because of her history. Like it or not, her history does play an important role in this movie because without it, she would likely have never followed her instincts about Justin and Richard. Yes, it was a bit of the cliche `women scorned, woman acting out vendetta in every facet of her life' plot, but I think without the depth of Cassie's character you have just another movie about teenage killers, and they just may have gotten away with it. There's no movie there.

And to the reader who commented that the teenagers obviously didn't commit the perfect crime because the police were on to them from the beginning, can I remind you that the reason was because of the purposely placed, and totally traceable shoe prints. The boys wanted to be involved-it was a game. They were so confident that they had committed the perfect crime that they wanted to see first hand the difficulty the investigators would have in uncovering what they think is the truth. What they didn't expect was that Cassie Mayweather had an overactive case of instinct working on her side. A little unbelievable? Maybe. But many crimes have been solved by police officers who have followed their instincts. However, this is a MOVIE!

I saw this movie in theatres about three times, and each time it revealed a little more to me, and I liked it a little more. The more I watched it, the more I was captivated and frightened by the psychological depth Richard Hayward-there are people really like this. My main complaint about the movie would be that they should have had Justin and Richard's interactions a little more central (because, let's face it, there lays the intrigue in the entire film) and my main props go to characterization-each character was very distinct and interesting in his/her own way. It was very well acted, although I would have given Ben Chaplin's character a little more depth to work with (he's a good actor) and maybe pared down Bullock's character a smidgen.

I think everyone should keep in mind that for a Hitchcock type thriller like this to basically tell you the "whodunit" at the beginning, it poses a very big challenge for the writers to keep the attention of the audience until the very end. I think they did so quite well by utilizing a few small plot twists throughout, slow revelation of the different character dynamics, and by lighting up the screen with some really emotionally charged performances by the young actors Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. I think if we remove our innate cynicism and attempt to see how psychologically complex the characters and their interactions are, we may be able to look beyond any apparent plot holes and see the real texture and quality of this movie, if only in the characters who were brilliantly portrayed. Especially Richard Hayward. Not that I'm biassed. :)

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