Murder by Numbers

Bomb Rating: 

Combine "Rope" with "28 Days", and suddenly you've discovered a motive to desecrate Alfred Hitchcock's grave for making such an unholy union possible. Nevertheless, that's pretty much what director Barbet Schroeder has done with "Murder by Numbers," a serious cop-drama that casts Sandra Bullock as a detective trying to solve a murder committed by two smarmy teenagers: Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) and Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling).

Now, I'm not saying Sandra Bullock can't be believable in a serious role, but every time I see her I have to remind myself I'm not watching a bubble gum commercial or being conned into buying strawberry-scented deodorant. Sure, Bullock might be bankable, but let's face it, her acting range is a place where playing tetherball can get you brought up on trespassing charges. In other words, when Bullock ventures outside of romantic comedies, she looks more lost than Ariel Sharon in Mecca.

In "Murder By Numbers" she's a pain-in-the-ass detective named Cassie Mayweather who's teamed with newcomer Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin). Aside from being a good detective, Cassie has all sorts of personal problems which are manifested in her willingness to sleep with Sam, though she insists on being almost fully clothed, a plot point that's simply a screaming euphemism for a no-nudity clause. Amidst all this trauma, Cassie and Sam work together to solve the unsolvable crime that's been committed by Richard and Justin. Yes, we know that Richard and Justin are guilty -- we just don't know all the details. They've killed somebody to prove they can get away with it. The movie's thriller aspect is supposed to be Cassie and Sam finding out how they did it despite the long odds. My thriller aspect was seeing if Ben Chaplin could make it through the movie without laughing at Bullock's attempt at serious acting.

Ultimately, Cassie resolves this whole thing by running off to the teenager's secret hideout at the end of the film and nearly getting killed because she won't wait for back-up. As I mentioned last week, Powers Boothe does virtually the same thing in "Frailty." Characters who insist on wandering into situations like this should just save time by impaling themselves on sharp garden tools. At least that would be less predictable.

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