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Perfect Murder

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Andrew Davis

Emily Bradford (Paltrow) is a society daughter married to the successful Steven Taylor (Douglas). Heiress to a huge family fortune, Emily is due to inherit a one hundred million dollar trust fund much to the delight of her conniving husband. An adulterous … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Andrew Davis
Release Date: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Perfect Murder

Not Exactly A Perfect Murder

  • Jul 30, 2002
Pros: Surprising ending, plot twists

Cons: The plan backfired, characters are boring and not well developed

The Bottom Line: Makes for an interesting comparison of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

For several days I had seen the commercials on CBS for A Perfect Murder and opted to watch this since it piqued my interest just a bit. I had a terrible headache but was not tired so figured the suspense would scare me to bed or I would fall asleep from boredom. This aired on Wednesday evening 9 – 11 pm January 23, 2002. At around 9:45 pm much of the plot was revealed and I was wondering how they would fill the last hour of A Perfect Murder. I will suggest that if you watch the movie do not cancel out the last fifteen minutes thinking you know the ending, as it is not expected and unlike Dial M For Murder.

It did seem a mismatch to have Michael Douglas married to Gwenyth Paltrow, as he is shorter and older than her and there was no chemistry whatsoever between them. They are Stephen and Emily Taylor, she is worth $100 million and works as a translator with The United Nations. Stephen is also rich and powerful but experiencing financial woes that will cost him everything, but that is not shared with his wife.

Stephen appears to be a control freak evidenced by telling Emily which evening dress to wear for a function as well as holding her arm too tight as if he is forcing her to be with him. You notice in the beginning the looks Emily makes having to be with her husband and see no signs of a happy marriage by any stretch. Emily spends most of her time secretly phoning her secret lover of six months making plans for her getaway from Stephen.

The casting of the lover and her best girl friend did not work for me in the least as her friend is of Spanish descent, seems younger and immature and not in the know of the secret lover until six months later. I am not familiar with the actor Viggo Moortensen who plays David Shaw the struggling artist Emily wants to leave Stephen for. His hair is dingy, his clothes have holes in them and his loft is unappealing as well as his artwork.

One evening they are all attending the same function but Emily and David are in another room when Stephen interrupts their conversation wanting to know who he is. Upon learning that David is an artist he inquires about viewing his work for possible purchase so Stephen says he will call for an appointment. The following day it seems Emily meets David for a rendezvous at his loft and David receives a message from her husband. The pace picks up quickly once Stephen recites the rap sheet on David, which is actually an alias and fictitious persona. David learned to paint while in prison for bilking other wealthy women and Stephen mentions the three strikes law means no parole next time he is arrested.

While Stephen is making an offer of $500,000 to kill his wife David notices that Emily left her wedding ring behind. It takes some persuading for David to agree on the condition he gets $100,000 the next day and $400,00 after the job is complete. Stephen suggests that David must know where he lives and tells him to come at Noon.

Very similar to Dial M for Murder Stephen does a walk through of the house showing how the supposed intruder will enter and catch Emily off guard. Again the phone is used as the bait where the husband is the one calling. Of course Stephen has his alibi ready since it is his weekly card game. Another similarity is the key and the fact that loose ends have a way of catching up with the intended plan. With Dial M for Murder the husband did not assume the wife would be using her sewing kit and that played a pivotal role in the murder. For A Perfect Murder Stephen has the cook make a family favorite meal of Pot Roast and she leaves behind an item that aids in the murder as well.

Stephen feels he is in control of this plot but David is more of a professional at this sort of thing so they seem to challenge each other’s knowledge and authority. Stephen had his eye on the clock at the card game and had two separate cell phones making calls. He sat there intently listening once Emily answered the phone as she was being attacked. He placed the call on mute and acted unmoved to the events on the other side. Once satisfied he turned the phone off and returned to the card game.

On the drive home he tossed one of the phones out the window and slowly entered the house peaking around the corners until he realized Emily was in the bedroom crying and shaking. Once he got her settled on the phone with the police he entered the kitchen. He pulled out of a drawer a pair of yellow rubber gloves and used those on to remove the key from the pocket of the killer and quickly placed that on Emily’s keychain. He did not have enough time to place the gloves in garbage or back in drawer so stuffed them in his breast pocket.

I thought for sure this would haunt him but we never did see where the gloves ended up. The detective played by David Suchet is the only person suspicious of Stephen, questioning why his footprints were near the killer. It seemed rude when Emily spoke in another language to the detective when they were at the station after he received a phone call from home.

Constance Powers plays Emily’s Mother, who also has played Helena on General Hospital for years. Emily stays at her Mother’s house and in the study on the way out Stephen notices the light on the phone and seems edgy by this. It came as a surprise to David when he heard Emily’s voice on his machine leaving a message saying she was okay. Stephen went in to the room taking the phone from the bed where Emily was sleeping going into the closet area to hit redial to set up a meeting with David.

David turned the tables on Stephen more than once when he hired a professional to do the hit and demanded the rest of the money from Stephen as he had another bargaining chip Stephen had not anticipated. Stephen later plays the husband who was trying to save his wife from the ex con and goes to rescue the incriminating wedding ring left behind at David’s by Emily.

The last half hour has so many twists and turns it is worth checking out for that aspect of A Perfect Murder. Each of the characters is calculating in their efforts to beat the other at the game of not getting caught in this suspenseful tale of deception and lies. It is hard not to compare this flick with Dial M for Murder as both films were based on a play by Frederick Knott. A Perfect Murder takes the premise of the film but adds some drama with the boyfriend’s shady past and his own agenda. The chemistry between the stars was better with Hitchcock’s version but the New York film locale on A Perfect Murder was interesting as you saw the ethnicity in the neighborhoods and the difference in living styles.

It was hard to believe that Emily never signed a prenuptial and to see what the connection between her and Stephen ever was. There is no indication of how long the marriage had lasted before its demise either. Andrew Davis directed this film adapted by the screenplay written by Patrick Smith Kelly. The police involvement was lacking in this version compared to Hitchcock’s. On a scale of 1–10, I would give this a seven just for the plot twists and the surprised ending.


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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