Murder By Numbers (2002)

(In theaters, April 2002) It doesn’t take much to make me happy in a theater; just deliver a movie that’s better than I expected. In the case of Murder By Numbers, I expected a so-so thriller, and I got that, plus a solid performance by Sandra Bullock, a complex set of character interactions, hissable villains and a few interesting details of police work. Bullock (who co-produced the film) should get points for playing a darker version of her Miss Congeniality policewoman character, a damaged cop using work as a shield—no, it plays much better than you’d expect. The two antagonists are thoroughly despicable teens who decide to kill for kicks, probably working from a stoned reading of Nietzche’s greatest hits. Other matters, large and small, come to complicate everything, and the result is a nicely entertaining film that’s much better than the conventional trailers would lead you to believe—that is, until the ending, which is every bit as conventional as the trailers suggested. It’s unspectacular but satisfying entertainment.

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