The murder mystery film is a genre that has been around since the early days of film. Over the years, audiences have thrilled to the working of Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Pirot, and Hitchcock as they spin and unravel the mysteries before them.
In modern times, the genre is alive and well though Hollywood seems to have moved away from mystery series that use the same investigator unless they are based on a book such as the Alex Cross or the “Silence of the Lambs” series.
In the new film “Murder By Numbers”, director Barbet Schroeder presents a new twist on the genre. Instead of letting the audience guess who is behind the killings, the film tells the audience who is behind the murders and why very early into the story. Two students one rich and popular, Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling), and one smart and reserved Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt), have conspired to conduct the perfect murder. They have no sinister motives behind doing this other than seeing if they can plan and pull off the perfect murder and get away with it.
No sooner is the victim’s body discovered than investigator Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) is assigned to the case. Cassie is determined to solve the case and working with her new partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin), they set about to unravel the mystery and follow the clues that have been left by the killers in an effort to divert attention away from them and onto others. Even when suspicion falls upon them, the two boys spin their tales to further complicate the investigation.
What hampers the film in many ways is the knowledge of who is behind the crimes. There is little suspense to the film and star/producer Bullock concentrates so much on her character and the back-story that the other characters are left unfinished. Gosling and Pitt are fantastic and a little more effort on their characters could have turned this into a top-notch thriller. Instead the film plays off as a movie of the week and is rendered dull by a lack of suspense and character development. This is one to rent rather than watch in the cinema
2.5 Stars out of 5