Agnes Bruckner

Murder by Numbers (2002, Barbet Schroeder)

Besides being bewildered at how low Barbet Schroeder’s fortunes have sunk for him to be involved with this film and seeing Ryan Gosling in an early role, all Murder by Numbers offers is a look at Sandra Bullock’s seemingly limitless egomania.

Bullock’s police detective isn’t just so beautiful even high schooler Gosling can’t resist her, neither can her coworkers (Numbers believes in empowerment through promiscuity), she’s also smarter than any of the other cops and she has Oprah-like epiphanies at all the right moments.

But Numbers isn’t really about Bullock and her overcompensating issues, it’s supposed to be about Gosling and co-star Michael Pitt being modern day Leopold and Loebs. Sadly, since their very boring story is juxtaposed against Bullock’s equally boring (and even worse) story, Numbers is a disaster.

About the only good performance in the movie is Chris Penn playing a seedy high school janitor. It’s not a stretch for Penn.

Bullock is shockingly bad. One has to wonder why she’s trying for an East Coast tough girl accent in coastal California, though one could ask the same about Gosling. Though he seems to be going for a tough guy, not girl.

Pitt’s terrible. Gosling’s terrible. Ben Chaplin, as Bullock’s new partner who falls madly in love with her because she’s so wonderful, he’s awful too. R.D. Call is laughable as her boss.

While Tony Gayton’s script is garbage, Schroeder doesn’t even try with it. He could’ve at least tried.

Bullock and her Numbers are execrable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Barbet Schroeder; written by Tony Gayton; director of photography, Luciano Tovoli; edited by Lee Percy; music by Clint Mansell; production designer, Stuart Wurtzel; produced by Richard Crystal, Schroeder and Susan Hoffman; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Sandra Bullock (Cassie Mayweather), Ben Chaplin (Sam Kennedy), Ryan Gosling (Richard Haywood), Michael Pitt (Justin Pendleton), Agnes Bruckner (Lisa Mills), R.D. Call (Captain Rod Cody), Tom Verica (Asst. D.A. Al Swanson) and Chris Penn (Ray Feathers).


The Pact (2012, Nicholas McCarthy)

For a feature debut, The Pact is an exceptional disappointment from writer and director McCarthy. He’s expanding on his exquisite short of the same name and it’s a flop.

He remakes the short (the Kevin Williamson teaser) and then continues its story, somewhat aware he’s in familiar haunted house territory and not willing to embrace the good things he’s got going.

Sisters Agnes Bruckner and Caity Lotz have recently lost their mother and have to deal with the house, a Southern Californian suburban ranch, and her funeral. Of course, the mother was terribly abusive and so it’s a bad situation. Sadly, we get all this information in the first few minutes, when McCarthy’s remaking his short, because he loves bad expository dialogue. And having Bruckner deliver it? It makes The Pact painful, especially for someone who knows how well McCarthy did with almost literally the same material in the short.

Things get better once Lotz enters the film. McCarthy’s narrative doesn’t, mostly because he keeps adding twists to perturb the plot. As a filmmaker, he’s sublime (his Blow-Up homage is lovely). His composition, his pacing of shots and actors… from a technical angle, The Pact is Hitchcockian.

Sadly, good technical doesn’t make up for grossly lacking narrative.

McCarthy gets a good performance from Lotz. Not great, but good. Similarly Casper Van Dien is good as her cop sidekick (ghost stories don’t need cops). Nice supporting work from Sam Ball and Haley Hudson.

I’m really bummed The Pact isn’t good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy; director of photography, Bridger Nielson; edited by Adriaan van Zyl; music by Ronen Landa; production designer, Walter Barnett; produced by Ross M. Dinerstein; released by IFC Films.

Starring Caity Lotz (Annie), Agnes Bruckner (Nicole), Kathleen Rose Perkins (Liz), Haley Hudson (Stevie), Sam Ball (Giles) and Casper Van Dien (Bill Creek).


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