Directed by: Barbet Schroeder
Written by:Tony Gayton
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Michael Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Chris Penn
Released: October 31, 2002
Grade: C

The title is Murder By Numbers.  I have no idea why.  Sure there’s a murder but I’m puzzled by the reference to numbers.  Maybe it was line Sandra Bullock uttered somewhere along the line that got cut from the film.  Then again, maybe it related to that part of the film during which I was asleep.  Can someone shed any light?

Poor Sandra Bullock.  Of her last eight films, not one have I considered worthy of a grade higher than a B-.  Honestly, I do have sympathy because she’s not solely to blame.  Her friends, family and especially her agent have contributed to these misguided career choices.  One day, she’ll dazzle us all with a perfect performance and I’ll retract my degrading comments.  But until then, my harsh judgement will stand.

In this farcical adventure, Sandra Bullock is police detective Cassie Mayweather.  She is called to the scene of a murder with her new partner Sam Kennedy (Chaplin) and begins the search for clues.  There aren’t many but a shred of carpet fabric leads the investigatory team to a suspect who it appears to have committed suicide in his hideaway.  The case is closed but Cassie knows something is not right.

What she doesn’t know, we already know.  Two high-school teenagers, Richard (Gosling) and Justin (Pitt), were responsible for the murder.  They’ve got a fetish for crime and have studied hard.  They’ve plotted to stage a perfect murder - where one could kill someone else and get away with it.  But to use a Hollywood cliché, there’s one person they’ve underestimated.  Yep, it’s Sandra Bullock to the rescue.

Frustrating to watch, Murder By Numbers has a 0% reality factor.  I have no idea how Bullock solved this mystery - it’s as if she’s a mind reader and knew everything without even having to think about it.  The fragmented screenplay needed a lot more work!  Nothing flows at all and scenes are all over the place!!!  What was up with the sudden relationship between Cassie and Sam?  Were Richard and Justin gay?  Why is Bullock the subject of criticism from her co-workers when she’s seems to have some psychic crime solving ability?  What was the point of the twisted ending?  Why did I waste my Friday night?

The film also takes a disgustingly relaxed attitude towards the victim.  A person was brutally murdered (which we see in graphic flashbacks) but no concern seems to be given to her or her family.  If you ask me, the director’s focus is on the younger stars to turn this into some cheap teen thriller.

Released last week, Red Dragon showed how to make a decent serial killer movie.  Look at these two films side-by-side and you’ll see the vast differences.  The only crime in Murder By Numbers is that of punishing a defenceless audience.