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
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
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
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.