A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some graphic violence, including murders and domestic abuse. Characters use very strong language, drink, use drugs, and smoke. A character has an exploitive sexual encounter that is secretly videotaped. Cassie has sex with Sam but won't allow him to get close to her. There's a homosexual connection between Justin and Rick. The movie's tension and creepiness may upset some viewers.
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What's the story?
In 1924 there was a murder was so shocking that it was called the crime of the century. What was chilling was the motive -- not money or passion but a cool arrogance that led two wealthy young men to try to prove they could get away with murder. That case is the inspiration for MURDER BY NUMBERS, which centers on Cassie (Sandra Bullock), a detective whose is tough around her colleagues but hides her sensitivity. Cassie has yet a new partner, Sam (Ben Chaplin) -- no one will stay with her long enough to work on a second case. At first, it seems as though clever police work has led Sam to the killer. And when Cassie insists that the solution is at the same time too neat and unanswered questions remain, no one wants to listen. There is something about the two high school kids -- rich, popular Rick (Ryan Gosling) and introverted, scholarly Justin (Michael Pitt) -- that bothers her.
Is it any good?
Murder by Numbers feels predictable, even manufactured, a sort of movie by numbers. It's easy to see why Bullock, who also produced, wanted to make this movie. She gets to play a grittier (and more wounded) character than her usual girl-next-door parts, and she does have a couple of showy scenes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role parental neglect might have played in creating a need in Rick and Justin to do something angry and destructive and the way that two people can spur each other on to do things that neither of them could have imagined alone. Why was becoming a detective a good or bad way for Cassie to respond to her past? Did the detectives lie to the suspects? Is that fair? Families may also want to talk about the famous "prisoner's dilemma", which we see here as the police question the two boys in different rooms so that each one feels pressure to confess first.
- In theaters: April 19, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2002
- Cast: Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Sandra Bullock
- Director: Barbet Schroeder
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic violence, language, sex, and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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