Not so perfect, I'd say. At the beginning of the movie,
Michael Douglas gives a toast "to stolen moments." A PERFECT MURDER
is full of them, and Lord Hitchcock must turn over in his grave every
time someone watches it. Dial R for this ripoff of Hitch's DIAL M FOR
MURDER, though instead of black humor and a decent plot, we have the
Ice-Cold Rich Couple standby, visible plot twists and an utter lack of
any protagonist to sympathize with.
Douglas, officially entering his old fart years, plays Steven
Taylor (the lead singer of Aerosmith). He's a filthy rich investor who,
we learn at the beginning, may be in some financial trouble. It's all
good, though, because he's married to Gwenyth Paltrow, in her
twentieth movie role of 1998. She's getting retribution for her cheated-
on character in SLIDING DOORS by having an affair with sexy artist
Viggo Moortensen who, if he's not rich, at least isn't old enough to be
The movie plods along at a snail's pace as we realize:
a) Gwenyth works as a translator for the United Nations,
therefore she must be intelligent and classy and, therefore, she can
bond with anyone who speaks another language. This will be utilized
with no subtlety when we discover her best friend is Spanish and the
police detective is some kind of east European.
b) Douglas is even creepier here than his Gordon Gekko
character in WALL STREET, always giving people phony, pseudo-
charming one-liners while something sinister brews just beneath the
surface. We're supposed to realize gradually that he's evil, but it's
obvious right off the bat.
c) Moortensen is also a total creep, albeit of the sleazy, petty
variety. He's more or less the kind of guy who would sell out his
grandma for a double cheeseburger, a contrast to Douglas'
sophisticated facade. Either way, it proves Gwenyth is always attracted
to losers (HOW long was she shacked up with Brad Pitt?).
I'll hit the highlights of the first hour -- Gwenyth tells
Moortensen to meet her at a party, not thinking Douglas will be able to
make it. But he does, and the two men meet. The movie keeps us
guessing (ha-ha) about whether Douglas knows of the affair, as he
arranges to meet Moortensen to look at his art, then comes up to his
loft and toys with him like cat and mouse, etc. And Moortensen
notices Gwenyth left her wedding ring lying out, which I'm sure is
symbolic of the value of the marriage. Whatever.
Douglas reveals his knowledge of the affair in his charming /
sophisticated / creepy way, then offers him $500,000 to kill her,
threatening to blackmail him if he doesn't do it. You see, Moortensen
isn't really a starving artist, he's a starving gigolo who romances
women for their money, and Gwenyth is sitting on a $100 million trust
fund from her family. As classy and creepy (read: Hitchcockian) as
this movie is supposed to be, the motives all come down to money.
The plot in a movie like this dictates the "perfect murder"
will be far from perfect, botched in such a way that the three lead
characters are still around to screw with each other's heads. Some of it
is interesting and absorbing, but more often than not, it's an exercise
in tedium. A PERFECT MURDER isn't much of a resume booster for
Douglas or Paltrow, or director Andrew Davis, who brought us THE
FUGITIVE in 1993. It illustrates the principle, if you're going to do a
remake, at least do a good one.
Copyright © 1998 Andrew Hicks