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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hitchcock Remake 'Perfectly' Enjoyable




A Perfect Murder" is not a perfect movie, but it is a perfectly good way to kill a couple of hours with some well-turned entertainment.


The 1998 thriller, now showing at the Dome Cinema, is a remake of the Hitchcock classic "Dial M For Murder," which was based on a stage hit by Frederick Knott. This winning pedigree shows in the updated Michael Douglas-Gwyneth Paltrow version, although the new work is a somewhat lesser achievement.


Still, it is a very serviceable film. If it doesn't exactly leave you breathless and sweaty-palmed with haunting, heart-pounding tension, it does move along at a nice, taut pace, with a satisfying edge of menace and a few genuine surprises among the requisite plot twists. And like those classic thrillers of yore, it depends more on good acting than on sensational shocks to deliver its effects.


Douglas does an enjoyable variation on his by-now patented "Gordon Gekko" character: the cold, debonair, slightly sinister business titan.


Here he is currency trader Steven Taylor, with a high-flying financial operation, a beautiful young wife, Emily (Paltrow) f and a very troubled marriage. Indeed, the opening scene is the steamiest in the whole film, as we watch Emily and her lover, David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen), a bohemian artist, making love in his stylishly seedy loft.


The scene is thus set for the arrival of the old green-eyed monster, that engine of plots since time immemorial. But there are other forces at work too, and director Andrew Davis and adapter Patrick Smith Kelly do a good job of slowly shading these complications into the picture.


Steven, it turns out, is high-flying all right f but flying without a parachute. Volatile world markets have left him murderously overexposed and under-funded. He needs a huge infusion of cash, and he needs it fast.


It just so happens that Emily is sitting on a $100 million trust fund she inherited f a tempting target for anyone in search of easy money.


The fact that she's cheating on Steve only adds to the measure of motive on his side. But then we are also given some troubling indications that her lover might have more than art and ardency on his mind.


Actually, the film is admirably straightforward. It doesn't play mind games with a lot of feints and dodges, it doesn't reek of red herring. Instead, it skillfully draws on the complexity of motives driving the characters to provide its tensions and suspense.


Douglas' good work is more than matched by the other principals.


Mortensen is especially good at the slow revelation of Shaw's essential nature; his scenes with Douglas are subtle duels of inflection and gesture as well as wits.


Paltrow continues to shine as one of Hollywood's best young actresses. Although she is better with more challenging roles, she brings a spark of reality to more conventional roles. Since Emily is more or less the innocent party in the plot, she could easily be played as a witless dupe, a blind beauty. But Paltrow manages to imbue the character with a believable intelligence and independence.


These praises aren't meant to raise large claims for "A Perfect Murder." It won't bowl you over or linger with you too long after the final credits roll. (The ending is especially weak.) But within its modest framework, it does its job cleanly and well.