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Film / Murder by Numbers

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"One cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime."

Murder by Numbers is a 2002 mystery/thriller film directed by Barbet Schroeder, starring Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Michael Pitt, and Ryan Gosling.

Detective Cassie Mayweather (Bullock) suspects more at work than an unplanned act of violence when a young woman is found strangled to death in a ditch. Her gut instincts get her in trouble with her supervisors, but they lead her correctly to privileged, smug high school student Richard Haywood (Gosling)... and from there to brooding Straw Nihilist Justin Pendleton (Pitt). The connection between the two boys is more than imagined, and as their mind games played with the police and with each other grow still more complicated, Cassie attempts to find some way to put an end to their plans.

No relation to the 2020 visual novel with the same title.

This film provides examples of:

  • Disney Villain Death: Richard Haywood suffers this when he and Cassie fight on a rickety balcony. The fight eventually concludes with Cassie managing to throw Richard over the railing to his death. Cassie nearly dies as well but Justin saves her.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Shortly after Sam is assigned as her partner, Cassie takes him to her houseboat for a drink and casual sex. Sam later learns that she has a history of using her police partners for sex, and that this is how she earned her "Hyena" nickname.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cassie's emotional distance with her sexual partners, and her interest in this particular case, are due to her abusive ex-husband.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: The detectives try to pull a classic Prisoner's Dilemma in the interrogation scene, but the trust between the prisoners and the arrival of the lawyers prevents the defection.
  • That One Case: It haunts Cassie's career and clouds her judgement, since her current suspect reminds her of the perp. That case being her own attempted murder at the hands of an abusive husband.
  • The Perfect Crime: The murder is loosely based on the Leopold and Loeb case.
  • Titled After the Song: The film takes its name from a song by The Police.