A Perfect Murder
Director: Andrew Davis. Cast: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortenson, Sarita Choudhury, David Suchet. Screenplay: Patrick Smith Kelly (based on the play and subsequent screenplay Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott).

A fairly solid mystery ride from the director of The Fugitive suffers under some nagging questions from the beginning: why would you get out of a bubble bath to answer the phone? Why on Earth would Gwyneth Paltrow, who is already independently wealthy, self-confident, and 25 years younger, marry Michael Douglas, who is not only a greedy, slavering criminal but also looks more and more like a lizard-skin mannequin with each successive bad-guy role? Without the visual know-how of Hitchcock—and Dial M for Murder on which this film is based, was itself a weak effort for the Master of Suspense—A Perfect Murder is all but dead in the water. Also, like Top Gun in 1986, this picture could be used by a contemporary anthropologist as an exemplar of all that is slick and consumerist in late-90s culture. All the same, the movie admirably complicates and recomplicates its borrowed scenario as it rolls along, building to some tense climaxes—though perhaps a few too many—and it's a tight, pleasurable vehicle for its younger stars. Paltrow, as she did earlier this year in the much worse Hush, does what she can with her totally unconvincing character and circumstances, and Mortenson is just the right fellow to play her sleazy but charming paramour. Finally, though immeasurably far from perfect, this movie bears the rarer and rarer virtue of improving as it goes along. Grade: C

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