Sandra Bullock stars in MURDER BY NUMBERS as Cassie Mayweather, a meticulous homicide detective. The story involves a brutal murder inspired by a high school essay. An excerpt from the paper reads, “One cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime.” This seems to be the theme of the two young men who are constantly seeing how far they can go in life without getting caught. These men are brilliant in their attempts to thwart the two detectives assigned to the case. Only the street smarts of Mayweather and her inexperienced yet gifted partner, played by Ben Chaplin, threatens their success.
MURDER BY NUMBERS has some practical inconsistencies and stereotypes, but there were also some redeeming values. The story stresses that, no matter what you consider yourself to be a victim of in life, there are no deals struck when it comes to true justice. You are responsible for your actions. In fact, there is a short speech Mayweather gives near the end that should be emblazoned in high school textbooks across the country. Overall, MURDER BY NUMBERS is a dark, violent thriller that clearly shows the true fruit of a despairing and godless worldview.
(B, HH, Pa, Fe, Ho, C, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, AA, DD, M) Dominant moral worldview about police detectives catching two nihilistic, humanistic, pagan-oriented youths clearly shows roots and fruit of humanism and modern paganism; some feminist and homosexual implications; some redemptive elements regarding flawed protagonist; 27 obscenities, two strong profanities, three mild profanities, obscene gesture, vomit, and crude sexual language; strong violence includes corpse mutilation where “trophy” finger is removed, strangulation, bondage, hammer used as weapon, and some gore; implied sex scene, depicted sex scene when a boy watches a film of his girlfriend fornicating with another student and adult figure in this movie is addicted to pornography; some partial frontal nudity; alcohol use, protagonist depicted as an obvious alcoholic (these elements not glorified, but pitied), and new hallucinogenic alcoholic drink depicted, called absinthe, just made legal in the U.S.; smoking and marijuana references include selling pot and teen drug use; and, betrayal, cheating and criminals frame innocent man.
Sandra Bullock stars as Cassie Mayweather, a meticulous homicide detective, in MURDER BY NUMBERS. The story involves a brutal murder that is basically inspired by a paper written by a High School student. An excerpt from the paper reads, “One cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime.”
This seems to be the theme of the two young men who are constantly seeing how far they can go in life without getting caught. These men are brilliant in their attempts to thwart the two detectives assigned to the case. Only the street smarts of Mayweather and her inexperienced yet gifted partner, Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin), will threaten their success.
The more jaded American audiences become over cinematic violence, the more experimental Hollywood becomes to fill the addiction. The pressure is always on for writers and directors to reinvent the great American “thriller.” Audiences have seen 12,000 camera angles of gore in slow motion Technicolor and every squishy sound effect that can accompany icky visuals. Despite the recent terrorism in America and the drive to soft-pedal violence, the entertainment industry isn’t willing to totally abandon gory subject matter. They have simply thought of new ways to repackage it.
In recent years, thrillers have been saturated with characters that possess a total absence of empathy. Heartless, expressionless, emotionless crime is now being filmed from every possible angle. It’s an unsettling feeling when you see the clean cut, over-privileged son of a senator “pull the trigger” with a totally blank expression. While watching MURDER BY NUMBERS, one might quickly conjure up images of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two Columbine gunmen. Along with 1924’s notorious Leopold and Loeb case (which inspired movies like COMPULSION, they had to be the inspiration for two characters in this story.
There were some more practical problems with the movie, beginning with the stereotypical cop film dilemma. The most glaring example was the fact that Sandra Bullock, the street-smart cop, lived on a houseboat. Why do movie cops always have to have a quirky residence? The recent Robert DeNiro comedy, SHOWTIME, blatantly made fun of this point. Let’s go down the list. Don Johnson’s Miami Vice character Crocket lived on a boat. So did Bruce Willis in the cop flick, STRIKING DISTANCE… a house boat, by the way. Then there was Mel Gibson’s oceanside van dwelling in LETHAL WEAPON. The list goes on.
Another problem was the tough guy police chief with a New York accent running the department – even though they were on the West Coast. Oops. Redeeming values: Sandra Bullock was forced to evaluate her own life in order to heal past wounds. She had to ask for help and show vulnerability when it so obviously wasn’t her style. She was very sexually aggressive, but this fact was not approached in a “you go girl” fashion; it actually suggested that such behavior was tragic and dysfunctional. One actually can’t help but feel compassion for her character when you find out the reasons for her behavior. Viewers may cheer when she gets help.
Finally, trying not to give anything away here, this movie earns some points for stressing that, no matter what you consider yourself to be a victim of in life or what decisions you make, there are no deals struck when it comes to true justice. You are responsible for your actions. In fact, there is a short thirty-second speech Sandra gives near the end that should be emblazoned in High School textbooks across the country. Overall, MURDER BY NUMBERS is a dark, violent thriller that clearly shows the true fruit of a despairing and godless worldview.
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