A Perfect Murder: A classy modern day update to a classic film

Posted on August 30, 2010


A semi-remake of a Hitchcock classic, but better than other Hollywood attempts

USA, 1998

108 Minutes

Directed by: Andrew Davis


Michael Douglas (Falling Down, The American President) – Steven Taylor

Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love, Iron Man) – Emily Bradshaw Taylor

Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) – David Shaw

David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Executive Decision) – Detective Mohamed Karaman


A Perfect Murder is a semi-remake of legendary English Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M for Murder’. It stars Douglas and Paltrow as the Taylors, a rich New York couple. From the outside, all seems well in their marriage, but Mrs Taylor is cheating on her husband with artist David Shaw (Mortensen). Mrs Taylor doesn’t think her husband is wise to this, but he is, and he’s already plotting his revenge – to have her killed.

Of course, killing her himself would be too easy, so he sets about to ‘persuade’ Shaw to murder his wife – who Shaw loves, or so we are led to believe. In return, Shaw will receive money and his freedom, since the crime will be untraceable.

Burnip’s Opinion:

The film is based on Frederick Knott’s original play, and rather than serve as a strict remake, it pays homage to the Hitchcock classic. Many of the plot devices are notable to aficionados of the Leytonstone born director however it is still a gripping tale, with an exceptionally strong lead actor.

Now before fans of the original get worked up, Ray Milland is a fine actor, however the pure evil that exudes from Michael Douglas sends chills down your spine. He is manipulative, creepy and everybody’s mental embodiment of a Wall Street Hedge fund manager – perhaps this was honed by playing Gordon Gecko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.

Douglas sometimes is unfortunate to receive weak roles, however, when he gets a good one, he is a joy to behold. He is perhaps the finest American bad guy of a generation, surprising as usually Hollywood casts English actors to be the villains, however here they got it spot on. You are watching the movie thinking “boy, this guy really wants blondie dead….”

Looks can be deceiving

A relatively young Paltrow plays the lonely wife, desperate for a loving husband, in a believable and well acted fashion. She is naive when called for, tough and ruthless, and passionate, showing a wide range of skills that won her the Oscar for best actress in a lead role that year. This award could sit comfortably on her New York or Belsize Park mantelpiece alongside the world renowned “Blockbuster Entertainment award for Favourite Actress – Suspense category” she received for a Perfect Murder.

Michael Douglas coincidentally was nominated but sadly lost out to Nicholas Cage’s role in Snake Eyes.

There is some 90s-esque slick cinematography within the movie, adequately choosing locations that highlight the gulf in class between New York’s élite and the other city-dwellers.

British screen gem, David Suchet, best known for playing fictional detective Hercule Poirot, once again puts his inquisitive nose in things, and despite not being the portly Belgian, and lacking his trademark moustache, he still sought about establishing the truth. His performance was good, although brief, and I think the part suited him perfectly.

This film is a must see for any fans of suspense, thriller and Michael Douglas as a seedy villain.

Burnip Rating: 7/10

If you like this check out: Wall Street, The Game, Dial M for Murder