Murder 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.
Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Gostling’
The key piece of dialogue in “Drive,” a new thriller starring Ryan Gostling, happens early on before any of the hard core action begins. Bernie Rose, a shady character played by Albert Brooks extends his hand to Gostling. The younger actor stares at the gesture of friendship for a moment before declining to shake. “My hands are a little dirty,” he says. “So are mine,” replies Rose.
That quick conversation tells us that nobody in this movie is above boards and they don’t care who knows it.
Gostling is a man with no name, simply known as Driver, a movie stunt driver/grease monkey by day and get-a-way wheelman by night. Befriending his neighbors Irene (Carey Mulligan) and young son Benicio (Kaden Leos, who dials the cute kid factor way up) he makes a deal to drive get-a-way for some criminals to square a debt Irene’s husband ran up and safeguard the mother and child. When the deal goes bad he unwittingly becomes involved in a treacherous situation involving Irene’s recently paroled husband, one million dollars in cash and some angry mobsters.
“Drive” is an art house thriller. It’s stylized, with lighting effects, lots of slow motion and interesting camera angles that create a sense of unease that permeates every scene. For every instance of brutal violence director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Valhalla Rising,” “Bronson”) also escalates the movie’s sense of heightened reality. Very long pauses punctuate most every exchange of dialogue and how is it that no one seems to notice that the Driver is drenched in blood as he walks through a tony Chinese restaurant? “Drive” exists in its own world, and it is a fascinating place.
Here Gostling isn’t the easy charmer of “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” he plays Driver like a coiled spring. There hasn’t been a leading man this close-mouthed since Rudolph Valentino was the king of the silent screen. He’s a man of very few words, but his silence hints at an active inner life and his actions certainly speak to having a past. It’s a brave and strange performance, either emotionally shut down, or simply cool-as-a-cucumber, take your pick.
As for his co-stars, Mulligan isn’t given much to do except use her subtly expressive face to make physical whatever is going on in her head, but Albert Brooks, cast against type as a mobster and Bryan Cranston as an unlucky garage owner are stellar. Refn clearly loves his actors, stroking them in long close-ups, allowing the camera to luxuriate on their faces. It’s the exact opposite of what we usually find in thrillers, but here it adds atmosphere and star power.
“Drive” is long-on silence and big on anti-heroes, and is one of the most intriguing movies of the year so far.
Richard: 4 ½ STARS
Ned: 5 STARS
SYNOPSIS: Ryan Gostling is Driver, a movie stunt driver/grease monkey by day and get-a-way wheelman by night. Befriending his neighbors Irene (Carey Mulligan) and young son Benicio (Kaden Leos) he makes a deal to drive get-a-way for some criminals to square a debt Irene’s husband ran up and safeguard the mother and child. When the deal goes bad he unwittingly becomes involved in a treacherous situation involving Irene’s recently paroled husband, one million dollars in cash and some angry mobsters.
Metro World News Hollywood Correspondent Ned Ehrbar sits in for Mark Breslin this week.
Richard: Ned, Gostling isn’t the easy charmer of Crazy, Stupid, Love, he plays Driver like a coiled spring. There hasn’t been a leading man this close-mouthed since Rudolph Valentino was the king of the silent screen. He’s a man of very few words, but his silence hints at an active inner life and his actions certainly speak to having a past. It’s a brave and strange performance, either emotionally shut down, or simply cool-as-a-cucumber, take your pick.
Ned: Definitely the strong silent type. But I guess if your best friend is a scheming, motor-mouthed deadbeat like Shannon (Bryan Cranston), you learn to keep your mouth shut. The expression Gosling has on his face most of the time seems just as likely to turn in to a smirk or have him burst into tears, making him fascinatingly impossible to read. But he certainly knows when to put his foot down. So to speak. As electrifying has Gosling’s toothpick-chewing Driver is, the performance that impressed me the most was Albert Brooks as former movie producer and current mob boss Bernie Rose. I never thought I’d the sight of the star of “Lost in America” would fill me with dread, but there you go.
RC: Albert Brooks walks away with the movie in his blood stained hands. Gosling, Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are all great, but the character you remember is the ex-movie producer-turned-gangster Rose. He delivers what may be the best bad guy line of the year. When Gosling’s character refuses to shake his hand because his hands are dirty from working Rose says, “So are mine.” Great stuff.
NE: The only real criticism I’d make of Brooks is his performance makes Ron Perlman’s character, Rose’s less well-spoken partner Nino, stand out for being so conventional. But that’s really about the only complaint I can put against the film. Every shot is artfully composed, and the tension-filled sequences of Gosling waiting for his getaway driving gigs to begin will make you reconsider how long you can hold your breath. And the music — I’ve been listening to the soundtrack every day since it was released last week.
RC: It’s funny that a movie that values silence so much—there are l-o-n-g pauses in the dialogue—has such a great soundtrack, but there you go, just another surprising thing about an unconventional but intriguing movie.
The non-linear story begins in present day. Dean (Gostling), Cindy (Williams) and their daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) are a family unit teetering on the edge. Notes of tension are infused in their conversation and the only thing that seems to bond the couple is their love for Frankie. For the next 100 minutes we learn about them by jumping around on their relationship’s timeline; how they met — while visiting people at an old folks’ home — and how a once happy pairing fell prey to distrust and difficulty.
As you might expect from actors of the calibre of Gostling and Williams, the performances are top notch. Gosling seems to embody Dean, a high school drop-out with a great facility for love but also for volatile behavior and Williams has one of those empathic faces that can vacillate between joy and sorrow with just a very slight change in expression. But for all the skill of its performers “Blue Valentine” feels one-note.
The break up of Dean and Cindy’s marriage is not only painful for their make-believe movie family but for the viewer as well. Emotionally raw is good. So is heart-wrenching. But the repetition with which both these aspects of the story are displayed wears down any feeling the viewer may have for either character. It’s like watching a couple bicker on the subway. You feel sorry for them but hope they’ll get off at the next stop.