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Case Number 00574

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A Perfect Murder

Warner Bros. // 1998 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Rogers (Retired) // June 12th, 2000

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of A Perfect Murder (Blu-ray), published July 30th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

"That's it? That's it? You steal the crown jewel of a man's soul, and your only excuse is some candy-ass Hallmark card sentiment?"

Opening Statement

Adapted and updated from the classic Hitchcock work Dial M for Murder, A Perfect Murder pairs the stunning Gwyneth Paltrow (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Shakespeare in Love, Se7en) with the masterful Michael Douglas (Wall Street, The American President, Basic Instinct) as Emily Bradford and Steven Taylor. Directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Siege, Chain Reaction), A Perfect Murder gave a modern setting and sentiment to the original story, and rolled it out with an excellent cast. The results were well received, and the disc equally so.

The Evidence

A society couple, the Taylors are in high finance and high politics. He's a currency trader, at that extreme end of the economics spectrum where a fine level of control is required to maintain success. She's a United Nations staffer, working at high levels to bring a better world to pass.

However, he's also starting to get in over his head, having made some moves that got him caught in bad positions in his financial dealings. She's been having an affair with painter David Shaw, played by Viggo Mortensen (A Walk on the Moon, Psycho, The Prophecy). The plot is hatched. Steven outlines a plan to murder his adulterous wife, which will, after estate settlings, get him out of his current troubles. Now, all he needs is someone to commit the perfect murder for him.

As it so often is will great films, or at least highly entertaining ones; A Perfect Murder depends mostly on its cast to deliver the film's punch. The story is a fairly set piece murder mystery, or murder thriller. Using Douglas and Paltrow, however, gives the film heat, and a certain amount of acting weight. As Steven Taylor, Douglas is regal, controlled, but with just a hint of panic in his eyes. The distinguished success story frantic to lose it all because of missteps in business. Gwyneth is a young society woman, devastatingly beautiful, working in an important social job; but she's having a torrid affair with Shaw. She's by turns wistful, cold, desperate, and finally resolved.

Together, the two leads have a good amount of on screen chemistry; as they play out the frigid, careful steps of a couple with a strained marriage, then as they begin to clash, and finally openly confront one another in opposition. The casting was a critical decision, one the filmmakers made well. As the Taylors, Douglas and Paltrow bring vibrancy to this film.

Warner Bros. was pleased with how the film performed at the box office, and rewarded fans with a very nicely done Special Edition disc. The video and audio transfers are both extremely well done, professional. Video is 1.85:1 anamorphic, and is crisp, natural. Colors are warm, which compliments the sets, which use warm, earthy tones, for the most part, to set a sense of home, intimacy. There are no instances of video degradation, bleed, or noise. Complimenting this is the audio. The sound field is deep, enfolding, and very clear. Dialogue is always forward and understandable. Voices have a sense of space and direction.

Complimenting the excellent transfers, Warner Bros. provided a good selection of supplementary material. Two audio commentaries are encoded on the disc; the first with Director Davis, the screenwriter, and some interludes with Michael Douglas; the second with a large group of the key crew members Both are interesting examinations of the film, offering comments on scene background, techniques involved in a particular aspect of the film, and generally providing entertaining and informative commentary about the film.

In addition, the disc includes an alternate ending to the film, one that involves a little less action and a little more drama, and includes a commentary track from the director about the alternate scenes. A great bit of material to provide on the disc. Rounding it out are the standard text screens for cast and crew biographies, and some material to read about the film. The package as a whole is an excellent lot of content to please fans of the film. A great addition, and hopefully to be a trend.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Hard to really find things to focus on as weak points on A Perfect Murder. The disc doesn't include theatrical trailers, which would have been nice. The French track is only Dolby 2.0, which could disappoint some consumers. But ultimately, this is a great special edition offering from Warner Bros.

Closing Statement

Solid film, great performances from the cast, and excellent disc treatment from the studio add up to a great disc for all of us. If only it were always this simple.

The Verdict

Case dismissed.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 91
Audio: 89
Extras: 85
Acting: 93
Story: 83
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• French
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
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Distinguishing Marks

• Two Audio Commentaries Featuring Michael Douglas, Director Andrew Davis, Producer Peter MacGregor Scott, Screenwriter Patrick Smith Kelly, Production Designer Philip Rosenberg, Cinematographer Dariusz, Costume Designer Ellen Miroinick and others
• Alternate Ending, with commentary from Director Davis
• Cast and Crew Bios
• Background Info


• IMDb

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