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A Perfect Murder review

Remaking the work of a master director is a high-risk strategy. Look at what happened to Diabolique, which systematically mangled Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic French chiller. A Perfect Murder is an adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, in which the action is shifted from '50s London to '90s New York. Director Davis (The Fugitive) isn't really in the Hitchcock league - well who is? - and he's come up with a preposterous, albeit mildly entertaining, piece of thriller hokum.

This ill-advised revamp may feature Gwyneth Paltrow's first lead in a big Hollywood movie, but the film really belongs to its superb pantomime villain, Douglas. His ruthless corporate raider is a direct descendant of Wall Street's heartless business-baddie Gordon Gekko. Chomping on cigars and displaying his trademark smirk, Douglas delivers his hammy lines with considerable relish.

Mortensen is also effective as the sleazy con artist with a penchant for defrauding wealthy women. His confrontations with Douglas provide the picture's best moments. ("I feel I'm knee -deep in bohemian cachet," declares Steven at their meeting in a downtown bar.)

The weak link is Paltrow's Emily. Given that she's supposed to be playing a sophisticated career woman who can speak Arabic when conversing with Suchet's investigating detective, she's remarkably slow at grasping her perilous situation.

Money has clearly been lavished on the production design and the thriller is slickly shot by Crimson Tide cinematographer Dariusz Wolszki. But the plot twists and turns grow ever more ludicrous, the unintentional laughs mount up and the shallowness of the entire exercise soon becomes all too apparent. Are there no new ideas in Hollywood these days?

This misguidedly remade tale of greed, deception and murder is best enjoyed for Douglas' knowing performance. The script struggles to muster much suspense, while the humour isn't intent-ional. It makes you fear for Van Sant's Psycho.

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