Forget the misleading title, what’s with the unexplained baboon cameo? How about all the “kiss already” gay subtext? We know what Barbet Schroeder does best (hell, we’ve seen what tortured Catholics can do to impressionable youth in Our Lady of Assassins), so let’s just call Murder By Numbers high art in a vacuous Hollywood bubble. Meet Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt, doing his usual Lord of the Goths routine), Generation X’s answer to Leopold and Loeb. Richard is a curious fashion queen: he’s fond of leather, repulsed by pleather, and is a bigger cock tease than detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock). Amid silly, absinthe-induced ethics jam sessions (Doestoevsky and Nietzshe filtered through Cliffs Notes), Richard and Justin exchange enough tortured glances to suggest the meek shall inherit the earth. The film’s exteriors, shot by Luciano Tovoli (Suspiria, Single White Female), are so bleak they suggest a burgeoning apocalypse. Gosling and Pitt’s engaging performances compliment the film’s quaint pacing, forceful compositions, and Schroeder’s suggestive use of objects (naked female portraits, a copy of Rimbaud’s The Drunk Boat). Carrie is so man-crazy yet so curiously prudish (she doesn’t like to be touched above the waist) that it’s only a matter a time before old skeletons begins to rattle. With so many gasps from the past, stock detective no-no’s, and cornball character psych sessions (Sam suggests that Carrie tame her inner-freak by “looking inside herself”), it’s a shame Schroeder fails to interweave the sexual “dysfunctions” of his characters. Amid a gooey pop songs or two and ready-to-break drinking glasses, Cassie goes over forensics evidence for a crime that should have been committed by, say, a baboon. Maybe then, the unfulfilled Murder By Numbers wouldn’t have felt so by the numbers.
- Warner Bros.
- 125 min
- Barbet Schroeder
- Tony Gayton
- Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner, Chris Penn, R.D. Call, Ben Chaplin, Tom Verica, Krista K. Carpenter, Joe La Piana, Michel Paulson, Michael Samluk
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