Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bullock is damaged cop in 'Murder by Numbers'

Murder By Numbers (2002)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Pitt
Director: Barbet Shroeder
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A pair of sociopathic teenagers (Gosling and Pitt) plan and commit the perfect murder, but their carefully made plans threaten to unravel when homicide detective Cassie Merriweather (Bullock), driven by personal demons, refuses to accept the too-pat solution to the case. Will a detective on the brink of a nervous breakdown find the guilty parties behind a perfectly staged crime?

The only really good part about this film is Bullock. The script is rather weak and predictable--I've seen a "Jane Doe" episode on the Hallmark Channel that held more suspense than "Murder By Numbers"--and one is left wondering why the Gosling and Pitt characters seem to be liked by anyone at their school they're so creepy and repulsive. Both also give uninteresting and completely flat performances, although that is the case of everyone in the film, except Bullock.

This movie shows that Bullock really CAN act, as she more than once displays some very subtle emotional shifts with nothing but facial expressions. What's more, she really plays against the kind of character she is usually cast as... Cassie Merriweather may once have been the girl next door, but a terrible secret in her past changed that long ago. It's a shame that the movie she is giving such a fine performance in really isn't all that good.

"Murder By Numbers" is a so-so police procedural mystery flick that isn't much better or worse than your standard made-for-basic-cable movie. It's almost perfectly bland... not so bad to be offensive, but not so good to be noteworthy. Bullock turns in a good performance, but that's the film's only standout element.

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