"Murder by Numbers" is a suspense thriller that begins with a dead
body and offers insight into the high school mind set. It begins with
what becomes the ending and the preceding action is told in flashback.
Cassie Mayweather, (Sandra Bullock) plays the hard nose cop called
the hyena by her coworkers.
Cassie is a single woman who thinks like a man and lacks the sensitivity
of a woman. Her hard heartedness creates a barrier between herself
and the opposite sex. There is a reversal of roles between Cassie
and her partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin). After Cassie and Sam have
sex Cassie kicks him out of the bed rather abruptly. Sam is hurt.
He wants to stay and is interested in a relationship with Cassie.
"Murder by Numbers" begins with the discovery of a woman found murdered
in the woods and the circumstances surrounding the murder are the focus of the plot.
The movie centers around the relationship between the wise guy popular
kid Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and the brainy yet disturbed friend
Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt). The two become fascinated with the
concept of murder and kill a woman picked at random. They place her
body in the woods making it look like the action of a serial killer
by brutalizing the body and cutting off the one finger. They set the
police on the trail of a janitor at the school well known for selling
drugs to the students. Justin murders the janitor making it look like
a suicide and the case is dismissed.
Cassie is determined to prove that the two teenagers were responsible
for the murders. She is haunted by her own victimization and on a
quest to nail the wise guy Richard.
Scenes flash to Cassie as she lay stabbed by an ex-husband. She reveals
to Sam that years ago she was the unpopular high school kid that fell
for the cute star athlete. Her ex-husband stabbed her seventeen times
and we see the physical and emotional scars it has left.
The film is suspense combined with drama. It keeps us guessing until
the end which one of the teens is really responsible for the murder.
Although, we are left routing for the shy disturbed Justin over the slick Richard.
"Murder by Numbers" is not that memorable as a suspense film. There
are no quotable lines and the acting is mediocre. But the story succeeds
at depicting teenage life and it actually brings you back to high
school. Cassie is forever changed by her high school experience. She
says to the suspects in five years nobody will really care who was popular and who wasn't.
Although this is true, you never really forget which group you fit
into. It stays with you. During "Murder by Numbers" I found myself
thinking back to my own high school experience at the same time wanting
justice for the heinous crime committed. Considering what goes on
in high schools today such as the Columbine incident the storyline
is realistic and it makes you think.
Copyright © 2002 Liz Quinn