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A Perfect Murder movie review

A Perfect Murder

Paltrow plays Emily, who works as a multi-lingual translator and aide to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and is the trophy wife of Steven (Michael Douglas). When his inattention drives Emily to another man Steven decides to make his (allegedly) beloved Emily the target of the perfect murder. Remake of the classic who's-gonna-do-it Dial M for Murder

In A Perfect Murder, a loose remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, Michael Douglas reprises a similar role to that of Nicholas Van Orton in The Game. He plays Steven Taylor, a wealthy and wise middle aged man. He's the kind of guy who says the right thing and the right time, but plans his actions so meticulously and carefully that there is bound to be a screw loose somewhere along the line.

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Allegations have sparked over director Andrew Davis' work in this piece. "Hitchcock's work should not be ripped off," the wags scoff, unaware that Hitchcock himself adapted the screenplay from the original play written by Frederick Knott. Smartly, Davis attempts to use as much Hictchcockness as any person other than Hitchcock could hitch. There are a small group of directors who can create similar feels of tension and suspense that the great man seemed to achieve so easily, one of which is definitely David Fincher, the mastermind behind Seven and The Game. Australian Craig Monahan has also shown distinct skills for unraveling a mystery in the grueling The Interview. Sadly, Davis is not one of them. His direction is inconsistent and often unclear; at some moments it's a little overpowering, others too passive. Emily Hayes (Gwyneth Paltrow) is having an affair with starving artist David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen). Her husband, Steven, is not too happy about the situation, and - for one reason or another - carefully hatches a plot to kill her. He hires David to do the deed, giving him explicit instructions as to how to pull it off without incriminating anyone. Surprise surprise, things go wrong… Michael Douglas is always interesting to watch. What is even more interesting is his bizarre choice of films, of which many of them seem to have a woman-hating theme. Take Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Disclosure for example, three of his best known films. But it was The Game which highlighted how impressionable an actor he can be, and he must have enjoyed the experience because he now performs in a role which, as I mentioned, is identical in many ways. The only reason why his performance in this film does not reach the same level (or actually, lands well below the previous level) is the messy screenplay, which misses out on the subtleties of his character.

That's a pity, since Patrick Smith Kelly has adapted Knott's play with as much sophistication and puzzlement as he could possibly cram in. The first half of A Perfect Murder is quite pleasing, as it introduces the murder scheme with well-planned tautness and builds a genuinely interesting scenario. The real problems lie in the second half, when the murder, planned murder or failed murder - which one, you can find out yourself - has came and gone. Thus the film takes one step forward and two steps back, making some characters discover what we already know, and others stand around and wait to mutter threatening lines of dialogue. In no time, everything seems a little silly.

For a film that really isn't too bad, A Perfect Murder is far from rewarding. It's the confused and faintly ridiculous conclusion to this piece that will disappoint most viewers, as it is comprised of violence and brutality - something that the film carefully avoids beforehand.

Although Davis is definitely not the 90s equivalence of Alfred Hitchcock, he still succeeds with creating an intriguing mystery, if only for a few sparse moments.

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See also: Gwyenth Paltrow also appears in Great Expectations
Michael Douglas also appears in The Game

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Just the facts:

Title: A Perfect Murder (1998)
Written by: Patrick Smith Kelly
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Produced by: Stephen Brown, Peter Macgregor-Scott, Arnold Kopelson
Edited by: Dennis Virkler, Dov Hoenig
Director of Photography: Dariusz Wolski
running time:

The Players: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow
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Filed: Oct-1998 : Last updated: : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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