A Perfect Murder

Gazing at young wife Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow) undressing in their plush Manhattan apartment, fifty-ish Industrialist Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) licks his lips and announces, "You're incredible," Duh. But does Steven bounce? Steven is coldblooded, not hot to trot. He needs Emily's money to back up bad investments, so he blackmails artist David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen), Emily's fortune-hunting lover, into killing her.

Sound familiar? It's Hitchcock's 1954 Dial M for Murder retooled for the Nineties, which means no one is in it for sex — it's all about cash. The stylish direction of Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) can't cover the gaping holes in the script by Patrick Smith Kelly, but the actors try. Nobody beats Douglas at playing corrupt tycoons. And Paltrow, in the role created by Grace Kelly, has the patrician-beauty routine down pat.

What the film lacks is suspense, surprise (the new ending is a dud) and passion. It's fun to watch the rich abusing their privileges, but as a motive, investments just aren't a turn-on.

From The Archives Issue 790: July 9, 1998