Murder by Numbers (2002)

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Released 18-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Barbet Schroeder (Director) & Lee Percy (Editor)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 115:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Barbet Schroeder
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Sandra Bullock
Ryan Gosling
Michael Pitt
Agnes Bruckner
Chris Penn
R.D. Call
Ben Chaplin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Clint Mansell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Just when I'd given up waiting for a decent movie starring Sandra Bullock, along comes this decent suspense-thriller.

    Two high school boys, one a rich brat and the other an introverted geek not only become unlikely friends but make a pact to commit the perfect crime; murder a random victim and lay enough evidence to confuse the police, or lead them to someone else.

    Unfortunately, they didn't plan on tough and smart homicide investigator Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) taking on the case. The other cops call her a "hyena," supposedly because female hyenas have a "mock p****." When she explains this to her new partner, Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin), he asks her whether she's bothered by this. She replies "It's not really a problem. I just tend to wear loose-fitting slacks."

    Most of the evidence points to a disorganised crime, which will eventually lead the police to a school janitor called Ray (Chris Penn) as the prime suspect. However, Cassie jumps into the inconsistencies in the evidence and starts suspecting the boys.

    However, Cassie has a bit of a past, involving someone who was imprisoned for attempted murder and spouse bashing many years ago. That man, Carl Hudson, is now coming up for parole but Cassie is unwilling to give evidence at the hearing.

    She emotionally identifies with the victim, and has a difficult time confronting one of the boys: Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling), who reminds her of Carl.

    Richard is obviously the brawn and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) is the brains. But who is leading who? And which of them is the killer and the other the accomplice? Like all good thrillers, there is a twist at the end but it may not be what you are expecting.

    The film is set in a fictitious coastal Californian town called "San Benito" and is filmed around San Luis Obispo, California.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in widescreen 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It is slightly undermatted compared to the intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 based on a 35mm film print.

    As would be expected from a recent film such as this, the transfer is extremely good and near reference quality. Detail levels are high (witness for example the detail in the notice of hearing around 14:21) and colour saturation levels are near perfect. Likewise, shadow detail is extremely good during some of the dark scenes.

    I did notice very slight edge enhancement present, and slight aliasing around 12:50. The opening scenes featuring a sunset over the Californian coast seem rather grainy and I wonder whether this is an artefact introduced during post-processing.

    There are several subtitle tracks present, including both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The only difference between the two are occasional dialogue attributions and transcriptions of Foley effects.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 61:28 and is mildly disruptive as it occurs during the middle of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are several audio tracks present: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (192Kb/s). I listened to the English soundtrack as well as the commentary track.

    This is a very good soundtrack with lots of subtle use of the surround speakers, and not just for music ambience. For example, I can hear "whispers" whenever Cassie "remembers" the past across all speakers. Also, I can hear reverb in the dialogue during the interrogation in the school athletics hall around 30:23-33:11 which I thought was a nice touch. Finally, of course, gun shots at the end were positioned well across the soundfield and sounded quite realistic.

    Dialogue was quite clear and natural-sounding. I did not notice any issues with audio synchronization.

    The background music was sparse and quite modern sounding. The original music score is by Clint Mansell.

    The subwoofer was used occasionally to support the low frequencies in the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The most significant extra is an audio commentary track.

Menu

    The menu is static but 16x9 enhanced. The main menu includes background audio.

Audio Commentary - Barbet Schroeder (Director) & Lee Percy (Editor)

    This commentary features Barbet Schroeder in the left channel and Lee Percy in the right, so it's easy to tell who is saying what, just in case the accents don't give them away.

    Because the editor is involved, we hear a lot of discussion about camera techniques, angles and depth of field observations. I ended up quite enjoying these, and learnt a lot, including the fact that the close up into the victim's hand is a segue from real film to high definition video.

    The pair also comment extensively on the plot, scene by scene.

    Curiously, there is occasional mention of deleted scenes "included on the DVD" but sadly the Region 4 release does not include these scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (2:02)

    This is presented in 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (192Kb/s).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version (available in widescreen and full screen releases) of this disc misses out on;

    Both versions seem to contain similar extras (i.e. both are missing the deleted scenes mentioned in the audio commentary track).

Summary

    Murder By Numbers is a fairly well constructed suspense thriller about two boys who plan the "perfect" crime and almost get away with it. There are a few plot holes, but fortunately the film moves fast enough for us not to dwell too much on them.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is also excellent and makes good use of the rear surrounds where appropriate.

    Extras include an audio commentary track and a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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