Film / A Perfect Murder

A Perfect Murder is a 1998 thriller film directed by Andrew Davis, tarring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, and David Suchet. It's a remake of the 1954 Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder.

Steven Taylor (Douglas) is a Wall Street hedge fund manager who has risen his way through riches and has a seemingly ideal marriage to Emily (Paltrow). However, unknown to him, she isn't a faithful wife as she is having an affair with a wealthy artist, David Shaw (Mortensen), and plans to leave Steven.

Upon discovering the affair, Steven confonts David and exposes him as a con-artist whose real name is Winston LaGrange and who is after Steven and Emily's money, but offers to pay him a substantial amount of money anyway... in exchange for killing his wife.

Tropes included:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Steven is about two decades older than his young wife Emily. (Then 25/26 year-old Gwyneth Paltrow, with then 54 year old Michael Douglas.)
  • Assassin Outclassin': Emily, with a cringe-inducing meat thermometer right to the neck.
  • Cunning Linguist: Emily is a translator at the UN and fluent in numerous languages. This pays off when she's able to forge a personal connection with one of the detectives assisting her—asking about the welfare of his wife and children—leading him to put in the extra effort to look after her. Later in the film, as she ventures into an inner-city neighborhood, her perfect Spanish similarly impresses the local hoodlums.
  • The Chessmaster: Steven.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Steven and Winston have frequent sparring matches.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Emily.
  • Evil Wears Black: Murderous Steven always dresses in black whereas his would-be-victim Emily is usually dressed in white.
  • Foreshadowing: Winston asks Steven why he'd want to go so far as to kill his wife for cheating on him. Steven responds with a none of your business type answer. Because the reason he wants to kill his wife has nothing to do with her being unfaithful.
  • Ironic Echo: "And what if there were no tomorrow?"
  • Out-Gambitted: Subverted, Winston believes he does this by intentionally setting up the murder to fail and then revealing to Steven that he was recording his conversations about planning the murder of his wife. However, Steven makes it clear that Winston is messing with someone above his league by killing him with no witnesses after pretending to give up.
  • Red Herring: The viewer is lead to believe that Steven wants to kill his wife for being unfaithful, when in reality, he is doing so because his wife is richer than him and from a wealthy family. And he needs the money he'd get from her life insurance to save his failing business (of course, finding out she was cheating on him might just be the straw that broke the camels back).
  • Too Dumb to Live: That's right, Emily, shout "THIS IS FUCKING OVER!" at the psychopath who tried to kill you before trying to storm out of the penthouse.