“Glory or nothing,” insists Justin Pendleton, the arrogant and unpleasant high-school senior who involves himself in a just-for-kicks, adventure-driven, and almost perfect murder. Well, Barbet Schroeder’s new psychological crime thriller Murder by Numbers, produced by and starring the ever-likeable Sandra Bullock, goes from nothing to glory, recovering from a detrimental opening act and creating a suspenseful second half that blends witty dialogue and strong character emphasis with impressive acting and a climax that cleverly brings the film full-circle. The film, at first, seems slow and, with hokey lines like “Let’s change the world,” a tad unbearable. However, the film quickly picks up speed, with extraordinary performances from newcomers Michael Pitt (Justin Pendleton) and Ryan Gosling (Richard Haywood), who play the film’s antagonist duo, the two reckless boys who plan an arbitrary murder to add purpose to their well heeled lives. At times, the eerie California coastal town of San Benito performs as a character itself, encompassing mysterious people, shadowy pasts, and unclear motives. Not attempting any radical change to the mystery genre, the film nevertheless augments it well, sacrificing Hitchcock-like profoundness for a film that becomes enjoyable and attention-keeping.
The film opens with an ominous landscape at dusk, with a dark, run-down pied-