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Murder By Numbers

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

After last year's art-house comeback Our Lady of the Assassins, director Barbet Schroeder has returned to thriller schlock again with the abysmal Murder by Numbers. Loosely based on the Leopold and Loeb murders of 1924, the film follows two affluent high-school students (Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt) who believe themselves Nietzschean supermen capable of dispassionate murder. They carry out their experiment and frame the school's white-trash janitor (Chris Penn). Enter Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock), a hotshot investigator aggressively romancing her new partner (Ben Chaplin). Cassie is a ridiculous caricature of those (imaginary) women who, in gaining strength and independence, become unattractively masculine, thus deserving the male power structure's hostility. And Schroeder's film beats a cowardly retreat from the homosexual element of this true-crime story (brought to the forefront in the 1991 New Queer Cinema landmark Swoon), couching the characters' sexuality in a few words and gestures designed to make homophobic multiplex audiences yelp, "No they did-n't!" Murder by Numbers is half slick teen thriller and half boring, poorly acted police procedural. Stay away.

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