Murder by Numbers
starring Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pit, Agnes Bruknmer and Chris Penn
written by Tony Gayton
directed by Barbet Schroeder
I often confuse Sandra Bullock with Julia Roberts. I wonder why? As a money-making machine Roberts is in a class of actress above Bullock. Many might prefer Roberts’taller, thinner, model appearance to Bullock’s tomboyish girl-next-door demeanor. But not me. I like Sandra Bullock. When I knew that this video had arrived in my shop I had to force myself to remember that it was Sandra Bullock I was looking for when I went there, not Julie Roberts.
In addition, I almost confused Murder by Numbers with the Jennifer Lopez movie Angel Eyes when I went to my local video shop looking for some evening’s entertainment. Something about the complexions of the two women, and about the appearance of the box that contains the video cassette itself looked similar. (The visual appearance of the cassette box is important to me because since I do not read Japanese I depend upon the illustrated cover to persuade me to rent a movie.) Both Angel Eyes and Murder by Numbers are female police officer stories - hence my confusion, I guess. Apart from that they have no relation whatsoever.
Two rich high school boys decide to kill someone just for the thrill of it, because they are bored - or, fashionably nihilistic. Sadly, it has an common, plausible ring to it. The boys are brilliant. They know full well what they are about and take measures to conceal themselves. But the old adage is true, and the perfect crime is an impossibility. There is always some fault, either a physical fault in the case of evidence overlooked and left behind, or else a psychological fault in the case of human hubris (and paranoia), leading perpetrators to talk or boast about their deeds.
In this film the female detective grows to suspect the two boys, but cannot prove her case - or even her suspicions. So she has to resort to psyching them out by playing one partner against the other. It is a brilliant strategy that plays out successfully, against all odds. We are left with the fearsome reality of pathological monsters in juvenile disguise - demons disguised as lambs. These days the news is filled with tales of heinous crimes committed by juveniles, so it is not at all an implausible proposition and it leads us to wonder about things: good and bad, truth and fact, innocence and culpability even damnation and atonement.
It is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it is good for an evening’s relaxation on the couch in front of the television.