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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Practice Makes Perfect

A Perfect Murder (1998) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Bohemian artist David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen) has his anger under control until his mistress Emily Taylor (Gwyneth Paltrow) unavoidably stands him up one day. He paints her out of his pictures and broods about it. Emily has found escape with him from her stifling marriage to financial big shot Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) who's adept at managing life on his own terms. She intends to come clean and divorce him. Steven knows more about it than what he lets on. Rather than lose his wife (and her fortune) to the divorce court, he's thinking along the lines of the powerful persons in one of Steve Martini's novels:

The thing about PEPs. They commit bad acts, they take money, and because of it, they are highly vulnerable to extortion. It's how they got the name “Politically Exposed Persons.” Depending on the power they possess, there is a high correlation to violence. (249)


The movie opens with a God's eye view of the roofs of some industrial buildings, coming down through the sky­light of one to an illegal loft residence, all to the sound of sacred music. It reminds one of, (Prov. 30:4) “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?” The camera pans a galli­maufry of loose junk in the loft and paintings in various stages of completion until it crosses a Norwegian flag Norwegian flag hanging on a nearly level fishing pole so the cross on the flag is nearly upright. If we are thinking at all of God up in heaven, then we're also reminded of his Son who came down to fulfill His mission on a cross. Later the roving camera will capture the national flags out­side the UN building where Emily works, including an Icelandic one Icelandic flag with the same cross but different color scheme, all blowing in the wind. A couple is thrashing about under the sheets in the loft.

(Prov. 30:5-6) “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Emily is aide to the U.S. Ambassador whom she hands a paper to, telling her a certain delegate is giving the same speech, word for word, that he gave three months ago in Geneva. Emily's friend Raquel Martinez (Sarita Choudhury) calls her a show­off. Likewise, the Bible I use is the same English Bible we've always had, which lends itself to easy show­off memory by virtue of hearing the exact same words repeated again and again. In a post­graduate lecture “The English Bible” given by George P. Marsh in 1859 when all they had of English translations was the Authorized King James Version (KJV), the professor recommended no other English trans­lation be made. The KJV is the English Bible, all the others having come along later contrary to his academic advice, and harder to remember from.

(Prov. 30:7) “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:” Now we come to itemized requests allowing us to separate the particular characters. (Prov. 30:8) “Remove far from me vanity and lies—” Steven would do well to take heed, of whom it was said, “Your husband has been buying U.S. and foreign bonds on margin and using those securities as collateral; that's illegal.” When the margin calls come, his paper assets will be seen as so much vanity. His panicked solution is to try to get away with murder, leading him to tell some lies, and then more lies to cover those, and on and on until he's hemmed in by vanity and lies.

(Prov. 30:8-9) “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” Emily is the rich girl with her family money. She grew up in a house with servants. She puts her rich girl's accessories aside when she gets under the sheets with the poor artist, and she dresses well when leaving his place. Her money makes her think her arrangement with him can continue indefinitely: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” with­out regard for kismet or meeting her Maker eventually.

“David” grew up in a broken home. He learned to be a pickpocket, then to do small cons, steal cars, and eventually relieve silly women of their wealth. He's got two strikes against him, for grand larceny and scheming. One of his career criminal associates lives in a bad neighbor­hood inundated with rap music (“Watch your lip.”) The husband whose wife he is bedding is going to get angry enough to let loose with his own blasphemies when he finds out. The life of a thief associates him with users of corrupt speech that will eventually tempt him to blaspheme, too. There must be a safer middle road to tread.

Production Values

” (1998) was directed by Andrew Davis. The screenplay was written by Patrick Smith Kelly based on the stage play “Dial M for Murder” by Frederick Knott. It stars Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Viggo Mortensen. Michael Douglas was a great casting choice. The other two leads also played their parts admirably, and they had good backup cast.

MPAA rated it R for violence, sexuality and language. For a thriller it just plods along, but we do see some back­story for the characters. The cinema­tog­raphy is splendid.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This remake of Hitchcock's “Dial M” can't hope to match the original's brilliance, but it makes up for it with its cleverness. I didn't feel let down at all. I loved it, but then I'm easy to please. If you can handle the dark theme, there are real object lessons to be had, and it was well made.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Martini, Steve. The Enemy Inside. New York: HarperCollins Books, 2015. Print.