This week:
Murder By Numbers

Filthy says:
"The same old shit, this time out of a woman's ass!"

Nobody thinks he's the stupidest person in the world, and yet someone is. I can look around the Arvada Tavern and see lots of candidates. Lloyd was caught eating out of the grease bin and the Harelip just recently lifted her skirt to show us what happens when you let syphilis go untreated. While fishing, Worm once hooked his own finger and was so drunk he just kept reeling. None of them are the stupidest person in the world, though.

There is someone out there who is measurably dumber than the rest of us, You can bet your sweet ass he thinks he's pretty fucking smart: smarter than those idiots at the bank, the dipshits at the grocery store who put the croutons in the produce section, and the jackasses at the insurance company who say the fender bender was his fault even after he explained to them that that guy stopped at the red light was asking for it. Even the dumbest dumbfuck of them all thinks he's smart. Maybe it's Carl because that guy thinks he's smarter than me, but I know he's not. I don't care what everyone else says.

The point is, everybody thinks he's smarter than someone else. Screenwriters are the worst culprits. They spend more time telling themselves they're smart than they do wiping the asses of the studio grassfuckers. They spend hours convoluting cockamamie stories that work in their pea-brains and expect us to go "wow, that sure is smart." It works when they're right, but it stinks like a dead carp when they're wrong.

Murder by Numbers stinks. This "thriller" is about as perfunctory as a third-grade class repeating the pledge of allegiance. All the obligatory words are there and they're in the right order, but they're repeated by rote by people who don't give a shit. And they're already obvious to even Lloyd and the Harelip. It's as bland as its title and as unoriginal as its use of numbers for letters (Murd3r 8y Num8ers). It's like they thought, "Hey, that letter-number thing worked for Seven so maybe it'll work for us if we're even more obnoxious about it."

Maybe if this were a parody of all those rectum-wrenching early-90s "psychological" stinkers like Color of Night, Striking Distance and Jade it would have a reason to exist. Actually, those movies are so bad they're funny, and Color of Night has a naked Jane March. Murder by Numbers, though, is just a piss-poor collection of those flicks' most obvious cliches.

Sandra Bullock plays Bruce Willis, a tough-talking loner cop about to bounced off the force because she takes her cases too personally. I still can't believe there was no scene where she has to turn in her gun and badge. She lives on a houseboat just like Willis did in Striking Distance because houseboats are Hollywood's shorthand for "outsider." In Arvada a houseboat means you finally made it out of the trailer park.

Like every detective anti-hero, Bullock drinks too much and has a mysterious past that drives her to become a brilliant detective. Like every smart bad-movie cop, she's saddled with a rookie sidekick, Ben Chaplin auditioning to play a cigar-store Indian but perhaps is a touch too stiff. She has to teach him the ropes and in the process point out the obvious just to show us how fucking brilliant she is. He also serves as her obligatory romantic interest, the guy who saves her from self-destruction. Sadly, we're forced to watch Bullock's sausage body try to wriggle its way out of its pig-gut casing on a filthy carpet while Chaplin lies on top of her, smoldering like a generic-brand fire log. It's a contrived and unbelievable scene, about as arousing as a cheese-grater ground against the shin, but God damnit! The Hollywood formula says it has to be there.

The story is ripped straight from the pages of a junior-college psychology text and filtered weakly through the infinitely superior River's Edge and Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment." It's the classic theme of whether someone can free himself from his conscience, but this time it's handled as elegantly as a two-year old lugging a bowling ball down basement stairs. Two teenagers, a rich spoiled jock (Ryan Gosling) and a rich spoiled goth (Michael Pitt), commit a murder just to prove they can get away with it and feel no remorse. Of course, smarty detective Bullock knows they're guilty right from the start. She isn't deterred by the silly red herrings including a baboon and missing shoes, or her boss telling her she's "off the case!" The movie plods along as the evidence tries to steer her away from the kids. We're told they're guilty at the beginning, and we know Bullock will catch them. So, we're left waiting for her to methodically disprove all of the "evidence" with her brilliance. The problem is, Gayton's idea of brilliance is only as good as his own brilliance, and he's not. He's just another hack in love with his own ideas and too vain to see how fucking pedestrian they are.

Murder by Number's characters and situations exist solely for the purpose of this story. These aren't real people, they don't feel authentic or sympathetic, and they don't have lives beyond the boundaries of Murder by Number. Everything feels contrived and synthetic, as though the evidence isn't the result of the crime but rather the result of what the screenwriter could explain away. The popular kid and the pasty goth are secretly best friends, but why? How did they come to be friends? In my school, the only thing the goths and jocks had in common was a feeling of superiority toward me. And besides the junior college psych, what motivates these kids? They have no real reason to kill, and it feels like they are motivated purely by the desire to create a case for Bullock to solve. In fact, the whole world of this movie exists just so Bullock can show us what a complex heroine she is.

Bullock is motivated to be a detective because when she was young she suffered at the hands of a young man similar to Gosling. So, does she only work on cases with smarmy rich kid suspects? How did she get so brilliant if this is the first case she could ever relate to? Chaplin's character has no history, no story, wants nothing and is not motivated to achieve anything. He's just a low-rent sidekick whose job is to stand there and say something so Bullock's speeches aren't one huge monologue. Bullock might as well have had her hand play opposite her:

Bullock: I have a deep-seated need to solve this case and redeem myself. S' okay?
Chaplin: S' awright.
Bullock: Those kids are guilty. I'll prove it.
Chaplin: Ees Deefecult for you.

The ending is as ridiculous and contrived as the ending of any Saturday night at the Arvada Tavern, where someone ends up in the trash dumpster and is happy about it. We have this supposedly brilliant detective track the boys to an unlikely abandoned cliff-hanging mansion. She catches the boys and tells one to drop his gun right where the other can pick it up. This stupidity is necessary or else we wouldn't have the dragged out chase around the house and a dramatic showdown against an ocean backdrop that looks faker than the one they used on The Love Boat.

But the real problem with this movie is how ass-numbingly dull it is. I didn't care about the characters, and I was truly annoyed by just how fucking impressed they all were with the story's supposed cleverness. There is no action, just a shitload of characters standing around talking about how perfect the crime was. Fuck, anyone can write the perfect crime in a movie, where you decide what the detectives learn and when they learn it. The trick is making itcompelling, and this isn't. It's just a bad masturbatory exercise by a small mind.

Really, this isn't about the perfect murder, it's about the perfect formula for a bad movie. Like the rest of us, the filmmakers think they're smart, but they aren't. They're stupid, too stupid to get away with real murder, so they write screenplays instead. One Finger for the dreary, dull Murder by Numbers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Fyodor Dostoevsky- Crime and Punishment

Listening to
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Plastic Fang

Mulholland Drive

Earl Dittman of Wireless Magazines

The Sal ton Sea is "A horrifyingly hip and wickedly witty celluloid trip!"

Murder By Numbers is "The hottest suspense thriller in town! Bullock is incredible. She gives one of the most astonishingly powerful and fiercely moving performances of her career!"

High Crimes is "Fantastic! Full of non-stop suspense!"


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