Before Gwyneth was Gwyneth, and Viggo was The King, the two up and coming actors starred with Michael Douglas in 1998’s, A Perfect Murder, an updated version of the classic play, Dial ‘M’ for Murder. Directed with a slick touch by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive), this noir thriller doesn’t waste any time getting into the thick of things. The first images on screen are Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emily and Viggo Mortensen’s David rolling around under the covers in perfect soft core lighting. He’s a bohemian artist living in loft where his brooding artwork is within a few steps of his bed. She’s the trophy wife of a rich hedge fund manager (Douglas) and also works at the UN. They’re in love and believe they have deceived her husband. They’re wrong.
Douglas’s Steven is a keen and observant man and he quickly notices his wife’s odd behavior every time she comes home from work. When he catches Emily and David together at an upper class social gathering, he immediately knows that his wife is being unfaithful. You can’t blame her, though, Emily is a sweet, loving person and Stephen is possessive and domineering. This is one aspect of the film that I never bought, as Paltrow plays her character much too strong willed to ever be controlled by a snake like Steven.
Having uncovered his wife’s affair, Steven doesn’t confront her. Instead, he goes to David with a portfolio on the artist’s past. Turns out David isn’t who he says he is and Steven decides to blackmail David into killing Emily. This is where the title of the movie comes into play. Steven has the murder plotted out the murder of his wife perfectly. It can’t possibly go wrong.
Douglas never plays Steven as a jilted lover, so the character’s motives aren’t really clear until the very end of the film. However, observant viewers should be able to pick up what he’s after pretty early in the film. Of the three actors, Mortensen is the least impressive. He mumbles his way through the early portions of the movie, making it difficult for me to figure out why a sweet girl like Emily would be interested in him. Paltrow and Douglas play bitter spouses well, although it’s a little creepy imagining Paltrow ever romancing Douglas, who is 30 years her senior.
Andrew Davis does a serviceable job keeping the action moving along. His use of the steadicam gets a little tiresome, though, giving the film, at times, the feel of an action film rather than a potboiler.
This is the first time A Perfect Murder has been released on Blu-ray, and I can’t imagine it getting another one. The film didn’t have a huge impact when it was originally released and it was not a box office success. Most people, like myself, will check out the movie for a chance to see two actors before they became stars. Although the film looks lovely on Blu-ray and director, Davis, offers commentary, the movie is rather forgettable.