A Perfect Murder [Blu-Ray] Andrew Davis

A Perfect Murder [Blu-Ray] Andrew Davis
Though loosely based on, or "inspired by," the Frederick Knott play and Alfred Hitchcock movie, Dial M for Murder, late '90s thriller ― if you could call it that ― A Perfect Murder is very much a product of its time. Where the original '50s psychological drama took place almost entirely in one room, finding tension in character dynamics and protracted anticipation, Andrew Davis's late '90s entry is keen to ride the coattails of the decade's trashy, inflated and resultantly pseudo-arty erotic thriller genre. Twists abound once the premise is set ― rich white lady Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow) slums it by porking bohemian artist David (Viggo Mortensen) while her older rich husband Steven (Michael Douglas) quietly plots revenge ― with shifting character motivations and plausibility at every turn. But unlike the cynical smut-fests of the early '90s (Basic Instinct, Jade, Sliver, Body of Evidence), this later entry waxed classy by foregoing breast shots in favour of rich set design and excessive, borderline pornographic cinematography. Director Andrew Davis keeps the camera on the move, framing opulent environments with a glossy sheen that cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Dark City, The Crow) is keen to exploit with clever lighting techniques and impeccable composition. It makes the actual story, which is mostly a didactic-free guilty pleasure, seem far more dignified and mature than it is. In fact, the only thing of appeal beneath the surface, beyond the obvious subtext of implicit human duplicity and capitalistic indulgence, is the weird gender-flipping dynamic. Typically in these types of films, male characters are defined as cultural purveyors, while women, passive and diffident, perform to titillate and appeal to the man and share in his financial success. But here, David and Steven spend the movie screwing each other over to exploit Emily, not for her sexy, youthful charm, but for her bank account and social relevance. If only Emily's character had a single conversation with another woman about something other than men this could have been progressive. Instead, it's a throwaway thriller that looks great in HD, given the attention to superficialities. Included with the Blu-Ray are the same supplements that came with the DVD, which are a commentary track and alternate ending. The alternate ending, which Douglas talks about hating, attempts to give Emily some dignity once it all unfolds, making her something other than a passive defender against the male will. But, really, it's too little too late. (Warner)