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2002_Murder_by_Numbers_006Murder by Numbers comes off as a re-imagination of the Leopold and Leob story, crossbred with an episode of Murder She Wrote. Sandra Bullock is Cassie Mayweather, a veteran detective paired with Sam (Ben Chaplin) an inexperienced by-the-book cop to investigate the death of a middle aged woman whose mutilated corpse was found in the woods. The cops have little in common, so, of course, they fall into bed from time to time, only to bicker and fight during working hours. So far we’ve seen all this before. The thing that sets this apart from the run-of-the-mill murder mystery is the attention to the police procedural details, and the performances of Ryan Gostling and Michael Pitt as the two intellectual teenaged killers. Gostling’s Richard is a master manipulator, while Pitt’s Justin is the brains of the duo. Like the Leopold and Leob (the true-life inspiration for the Hitchcock movie Rope) the pair concoct the perfect crime, randomly killing someone without leaving any clues behind. Gostling is a charismatic actor who is able to ride the fine line between menacing and sexy, while Pitt (best known as Tommy Gnosis Hedwig and the Angry Inch) has the sensitive tortured-soul act down to a science. Directed by the steady hand of Barbet Schroeder, Murder by Numbers is a morality play about how crime doesn’t pay, no matter how smart you think you are.

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