A Perfect Murder (15)

Directed by Andrew Davis
Starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortenson, David Suchet

A 1990s update of the Hitchcock minor classic "Dial M for Murder" sees Michael Douglas as businessman with financial problems Stephen Taylor, married to beautiful and independently wealthy Emily(Paltrow). She is having an affair with a painter David(Mortenson). Stephen decides to plot the perfect murder when he finds out that David is an ex-con who specialises in ripping off rich women. Stephen offers him $500,000 to kill his wife. The plan involves a hidden key and a supposed burglary to cover up the murder of Emily. However it doesn't quite work out as Emily is able to defend herself and kills her attacker. What will Stephen do now? And just who DID Emily kill?
I always like Dial M for Murder, although it is not regarded as one of Hitchcock's best. The 90s update works quite well. Like in the older film the question of why rich beautys like Gwyneth Paltrow and Grace Kelly would marry older cads like Michael Douglas and Ray Milland never comes up- hey! This is Hollywood, older men ALWAYS get young girls. The pokey two room apartment in Hitchcocks film was a right dump, whereas Douglas and Paltrow live in a simply sumptuous apartment straight out of some magazine. The aura of wealth is very apparent. I am not a huge Michael Douglas fan, but he is very good here. Treacherous and no good, sly and devious. Perfect for an actor I always find creepy- I can't take him as a good guy, but he makes a perfect villain. Paltrow drifts prettily around and Mortenson glowers like a tortured artist. British actor David Suchet is completely wasted in a strangely truncated role as a detective- he begins as an intriguing character, but then disappears. Maybe he was edited out.
Yes, this film looks great. There are also enough changes from the Dial M for Murder script that means you don't know what is going on. OK, so that key is important, but there are lots of updates and changes and director Andrew Davis handles it all well. He doesn't go for too many Hitchcock tricks- although we KNOW exactly what Paltrow is going to defend herself with as soon as the maid leaves those kitchen implements on the worksurface. The updates to the story work well. Paltrow is a working woman- yes even with her wealth. Mobile phones help establish an alabi, closed circuit tv plays a part. There is a nice atmosphere of tension and suspense, although I think we can guess how it is all going to end. Pretty good.7/10

October 1998

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