A Perfect Murder (1998)

Michael Douglas as Steven Taylor in A Perfect Murder

Michael's Murder Most Twisted

Whilst Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" is not one of his better movies it's a brave man who tries to deliver a remake of any of Hitchcock's movies. But then although "A Perfect Murder" uses the same Frederick Knott play as it's source I wouldn't really call it a remake more of an adaptation of the material delivering up something slightly different whilst still having those similarities to Hitchcock's movie. Is it any good? Well's it's not terrible or at least as not as terrible as some critics claimed who compared it too much to Hitchcock's movie and it is both engrossing and entertaining, but also flawed in a very obvious way.

Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas - The Game) is a Wall Street mastermind except his various trading has put him into some financial trouble. His wife Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow - Sliding Doors) is mega rich but is having a secret affair with artist David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen - Daylight). But when Steven's suspicions leads him to discover the affair and the artist who sleeps with his wife he sets about committing the perfect murder and inheriting his wife's fortune at the same time.

Viggo Mortensen and Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder

"A Perfect Murder" starts with a slowly spinning view of a skylight, a technique which almost seems to be imitating Hitchcock and it doesn't bode well because it's frankly not that great a technique. But thankfully the imitation is kept to a minimum and although every now and then there will be a camera angle, a roof top shot which feels reminiscent of something Hitchcock used it never really encroaches as director Andrew Davis delivers his own take and style on the thriller genre. Not that his own take is amazing, it almost feels bog standard in places with that "Basic Instinct" styling which became so popular during the 90s, but it works and stops the comparisons being made.

As for the actual storyline, well it's seriously flawed as it twists and turns itself into a bit of a convoluted mess but then at the same time by being so twisted that you don't know how it's going to end, who will live, who will die or whether they will all live happily every after. But the trouble is that whilst it sets up these series of twists there are so many in your face plot holes that it does at times feel a little daft. Which is a shame as the ideas of this murderous love triangle is very good and that Steven Taylor even plans out his wife's murder down to the smallest detail is a lovely touch but it lacks the intelligence it deserves.

That is the problem with "A Perfect Murder" it's a clever idea but the tightness of the storyline is not really considered. This means there is so much which happens that is obviously unrealistic, it is at times a little stupid. It also so obviously sets things up for future use, such as a cooking thermometer which the camera focuses on for far too long and this sort of heavy handedness spoils the whole atmosphere. It's still good and keeps you interested but it just doesn't keep things in check, almost running away into a fantasy land of duplicity and murder.

As for the performances well they are a mixed bag with some a lot better than other. The positives are that we get Michael Douglas taking on another cold businessman in the same manner as Gordon Gekko and there is no one who does it better than Douglas. It may not be such an in your face character as Gekko, but Steven Taylor is still a nasty piece of work and Douglas exudes that quality in every single scene from the first moment we meet him. Viggo Mortensen also excels as artist and third person in the murderous love triangle David Shaw. He creates a character which you are never sure of, is he in love with Emily, or just getting off on their adulterous affair.

But then there is the bad and unfortunately that is Gwyneth Paltrow who looks great but delivers such a mixed up character that it makes it all wrong. One minute she is in love, the next she is over it, one minute she is a fragile, nervous wreck then the next she is all action. It just doesn't work and is seriously overshadowed by Michael Douglas and Viggo Mortensen. Plus there is David Suchet, he of Poirot fame and casting him as detective Mohamed Karaman is just too close to his iconic character. It may be a small role and he doesn't look anything like Poirot in the movie but the connection is too strong making it feel wrong.

What this all boils down to is that "A Perfect Murder" although flawed by being too obvious and the various plot holes is still a remarkably entertaining movie. It twists and turns and although becomes convoluted still keeps you guessing when it comes to the final outcome. It's most certainly not in the same league as Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" but then it is more of an adaptation than a remake and as such doesn't really compare.