Murder by Numbers

Murder by Numbers
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Produced by Barbet Schroeder
Written by Tony Gayton
Starring Sandra Bullock
Ben Chaplin
Ryan Gosling
Michael Pitt
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) April 19, 2002 (USA)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50,000,000
Box office $56,714,147

Murder by Numbers is a 2002 psychological thriller film produced and directed by Barbet Schroeder. It stars Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. It is loosely based on the Leopold and Loeb case.[1]

The film was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[2]




Richard Haywood, a wealthy and popular high-schooler, secretly teams up with another rich kid in his class, brilliant nerd Justin 'Bonaparte' Pendleton. His erudition, especially in forensic matters, allows them to plan elaborately perfect murders as a perverse form of entertainment. Meeting in a deserted resort, they drink absinthe, smoke, and joke around, but pretend to have an adversarial relationship while at school. Justin in particular behaves strangely, writing a paper about how crime is freedom and vice versa, and creating a composite photograph of himself and Richard.

The young men kill a woman and set up Richard's marijuana supplier, janitor Ray Feathers, as a psychotic serial killer. They then incinerate all evidence. The case is assigned to Detective Cassie Mayweather and her new partner, Sam Kennedy, who just transferred from the vice squad. They work together well, and begin a romantic relationship very early on in their partnership. Footprints found at the crime scene lead to Richard Haywood, who has an alibi. Cassie becomes seemingly obsessed with the idea that Richard is guilty, and refuses to pursue the case from other angles. This displeases Captain Rod Cody and Cassie's vindictive ex, Assistant D.A. Al Swanson, who becomes nervous due to the clout held by Richard's parents.

False forensic evidence planted on the body by Justin, including a baboon hair, lead police to the janitor, who keeps a baboon in his shed. The baboon attacks Cassie, causing her to be hospitalised. Meanwhile, Richard kills the janitor in a staged suicide. Sam and Cassie fall out over different professional attitudes towards the investigation, and Captain Cody bans her from pursuing the investigation further when she disobeys instructions.

Justin is interested in his classmate Lisa Mills, and ignores Richard in order to go on a date with her. Richard sees them kissing, becomes jealous, and shows Justin a tape of Lisa having sex with Richard. This enrages Justin, who destroys the composite photo, but regains control of his emotions and remains friends with Richard. Determined to prove that Richard and Justin in fact know each other and are guilty, Cassie secretly takes pictures of them together. However, Richard sees her, and attempts to frighten her by seducing her. To protect herself, Cassie hits Richard in the face. Richard's father contacts Captain Cody, who decides that Cassie must see a psychiatrist. However, Sam decides that Cassie may be right, and further investigates the case.

It is revealed that Cassie herself was the victim of attempted murder by a serial killer to whom she was married, and who had been her high school classmate. Various flashbacks show Cassie's ordeal. Although she was found alive, she has scars on her chest from her wounds. The murderer is in jail, and Cassie is trying to escape testifying at his upcoming parole hearing.

Sam and Cassie bring Richard and Justin in for interrogation. Using the Lisa Mills incident, they try to convince the young men to confess, bribing them with a lighter sentence. Although they know that both Richard and Justin were involved in the crime, they are unsure which of them actually killed the woman. The killer will be executed, while the accessory will serve a lighter sentence. However, neither one is willing to talk, and they are released.

When Richard attempts to save himself by making a false "confession" to the DA, Cassie and Sam decide to arrest both Richard and Justin immediately. The two flee to the resort, but Justin first visits Lisa and admits what he did. Lisa calls the police and tells them where to find Richard and Justin. Meanwhile, Richard gives Justin a pistol, and holds one himself, as they will both commit suicide. However, Justin discovers that Richard put bullets into Justin's pistol, but not into his own. Cassie arrives, and tries to arrest them. Justin surrenders, but Richard shoots Justin in the shoulder and flees upstairs.

Cassie pursues Richard, who tricks her into going out onto an unstable balcony. Richard strangles Cassie, but she fights back and pushes him over the railing, and he falls to his death. But, before Cassie can get back inside, the porch breaks. Justin saves her, and she tells him that he will likely get a light sentence.

When Cassie examines the strangulation marks on her neck, she realises that the marks on the dead woman's neck were not made by Richard. Instead of Justin being manipulated by Richard, as she had previously thought, Richard was being manipulated by Justin, who was the actual killer. Cassie and Sam trick him into confessing. Now at peace with her past, Cassie agrees to testify at the parole hearing. However, it is revealed that Cassie's real name is Jessica Marie Hudson.

Box office performance

The film was released April 19, 2002 in the United States and Canada and grossed $9.3 million in 2,663 theaters its opening weekend, ranking #3 at the box office.[3] The film grossed a total of $56,714,147 worldwide — $31,945,749 in the United States and Canada and $24,768,398 in other territories.[4]


Reviews for the film were generally mixed. Rotten Tomatoes awarded a 31% "Rotten" based on 125 reviews, thiry-nine being "fresh" and eighty-six being "rotten" with a consensus stating "A predictable police procedural that works better as a character study rather than a thriller." Roger Ebert awarded three stars out of a possible four with his own consensus stating "Bullock does a good job here of working against her natural likability, creating a character you'd like to like, and could like, if she weren't so sad, strange and turned in upon herself. She throws herself into police work not so much because she's dedicated as because she needs the distraction, needs to keep busy and be good to assure herself of her worth. As she draws the net closer, and runs into more danger and more official opposition, the movie more or less helplessly starts thinking to itself about that cliff above the sea, but at least the climax shows us that Bullock can stay in character no matter what."


External links

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