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A Perfect Murder

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Viggo Mortensen, Michael P. Moran, Novella Nelson, David Suchet, Constance Towers

Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

Not so perfect, I'd say. At the beginning of the movie, Michael Douglas gives a toast "to stolen moments." A PERFECT MURDER is full of them, and Lord Hitchcock must turn over in his grave every time someone watches it. Dial R for this ripoff of Hitch's DIAL M FOR MURDER, though instead of black humor and a decent plot, we have the Ice-Cold Rich Couple standby, visible plot twists and an utter lack of any protagonist to sympathize with.

Douglas, officially entering his old fart years, plays Steven Taylor (the lead singer of Aerosmith). He's a filthy rich investor who, we learn at the beginning, may be in some financial trouble. It's all good, though, because he's married to Gwenyth Paltrow, in her twentieth movie role of 1998. She's getting retribution for her cheated- on character in SLIDING DOORS by having an affair with sexy artist Viggo Moortensen who, if he's not rich, at least isn't old enough to be her dad.

The movie plods along at a snail's pace as we realize:

a) Gwenyth works as a translator for the United Nations, therefore she must be intelligent and classy and, therefore, she can bond with anyone who speaks another language. This will be utilized with no subtlety when we discover her best friend is Spanish and the police detective is some kind of east European.

b) Douglas is even creepier here than his Gordon Gekko character in WALL STREET, always giving people phony, pseudo- charming one-liners while something sinister brews just beneath the surface. We're supposed to realize gradually that he's evil, but it's obvious right off the bat.

c) Moortensen is also a total creep, albeit of the sleazy, petty variety. He's more or less the kind of guy who would sell out his grandma for a double cheeseburger, a contrast to Douglas' sophisticated facade. Either way, it proves Gwenyth is always attracted to losers (HOW long was she shacked up with Brad Pitt?).

I'll hit the highlights of the first hour -- Gwenyth tells Moortensen to meet her at a party, not thinking Douglas will be able to make it. But he does, and the two men meet. The movie keeps us guessing (ha-ha) about whether Douglas knows of the affair, as he arranges to meet Moortensen to look at his art, then comes up to his loft and toys with him like cat and mouse, etc. And Moortensen notices Gwenyth left her wedding ring lying out, which I'm sure is symbolic of the value of the marriage. Whatever.

Douglas reveals his knowledge of the affair in his charming / sophisticated / creepy way, then offers him $500,000 to kill her, threatening to blackmail him if he doesn't do it. You see, Moortensen isn't really a starving artist, he's a starving gigolo who romances women for their money, and Gwenyth is sitting on a $100 million trust fund from her family. As classy and creepy (read: Hitchcockian) as this movie is supposed to be, the motives all come down to money.

The plot in a movie like this dictates the "perfect murder" will be far from perfect, botched in such a way that the three lead characters are still around to screw with each other's heads. Some of it is interesting and absorbing, but more often than not, it's an exercise in tedium. A PERFECT MURDER isn't much of a resume booster for Douglas or Paltrow, or director Andrew Davis, who brought us THE FUGITIVE in 1993. It illustrates the principle, if you're going to do a remake, at least do a good one.

Copyright 1998 Andrew Hicks

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