Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 35
  2. Negative: 3 out of 35
  1. Turns potentially forgettable formula into something strangely diverting.
  2. 75
    Bullock does a good job here of working against her natural likability, creating a character you'd like to like, and could like, if she weren't so sad, strange and turned in upon herself.
  3. 75
    The outline of Murder by Numbers may be familiar, but the filmmakers and Bullock do an expert job of filling in the colors.
  4. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The result is two or three cuts above genre standard.
  5. 75
    The story may be about cold-blooded murder, but Bullock's pulsating performance is about the getting of wisdom.
  6. Schroeder's misstep is trying hard to please his star, whether it be her character's empathetic past or one very fake-looking action climax. His greatest service is keeping her toe-to-toe with her talented co-stars -- and both are the better for it.
  7. 70
    Even as the psychological interdependencies of the two boys take the foreground, the movie gets more and more crowded with fun-house surprises and cliffhanging set pieces.
  8. Though Schroeder makes you squirm more than you want to at the inevitable scenes of the trussed-up female murder victim, he also has the proclivity and the skill to make at least the B-picture half of Murder by Numbers of more than passing interest.
  9. 70
    Bullock shades what she normally does into something more interesting -- the angriest and sexiest work she's done. [6 May 2002, p. 138]
  10. 63
    In effect gives you two movies for the price of one. The better one doesn't star Sandra Bullock.
  11. When Bullock is on screen, Murder by Numbers is as far away as a sleepwalker's gaze. But when Schroeder focuses on the teenagers, the film is wide awake, eye-to-eye with adolescent angst and anomie.
  12. Reviewed by: Chris Fujiwara
    For much of its length, the film is plausible, if predictable and ponderous. Its strongest assets are its actors.
  13. 63
    Towards the end, Murder By Numbers reverts to form with cheesy clichés, plot twists, and a fair amount of unnecessary action, but that's easily the film's low point.
  14. This is the kind of film where the audience has to sort through the sequences, like visiting the green grocer's: liked that bit, can do without those.
  15. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Engrossing but psychologically shallow tale.
  16. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Isn't a great movie, but it's a perfectly acceptable widget.
  17. Even though Bullock engages in a climactic scene of blue-screen peril, she essentially cedes the match to the kids. In this mediocre murder case, their presence is the only thing that's really killer.
  18. 50
    In Murder by Numbers, though, even Schroeder can't keep his own boredom from showing.
  19. Ultimately, Murder by Numbers has been reduced to a tease, giving us a hint -- mostly through the fine performances of Gosling, who creates a charismatic sociopath, and Pitt, who's character seems genuinely troubled -- of the kind of relevant social drama it might have been.
  20. A near miss, a respectable but uninspired thriller that's intelligent and considered in its details, but ultimately weak in its impact.
  21. There is indeed a murder - two of them, in fact - and the movie proceeds strictly by the numbers laid down long ago in some by-the-book Hollywood writing class.
  22. 50
    Doesn't necessarily make Murder by Numbers an awful film; it's certainly watchable, but it never escapes its paint-by-numbers design.
  23. 50
    But owing no doubt to the requirements of Sandra Bullock, the movie's above-the-line star, executive producer, and worst enemy, this potboiling procedural never stands a chance of disproving its title.
  24. The real surprise, given the secondhand material, is that not everything proceeds by rote in Murder by Numbers.
  25. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Not even the actress' soulfulness can save the generic climax, in which she tussles with the badder bad guy on a collapsing terrace above a crashing surf. As a colleague muttered, "Murder by numbers is right."
  26. Neither the crime nor its detection is especially interesting, and screenwriter Tony Gayton doesn't appear to be aiming for psychological insights.
  27. 42
    Starts out dark, thrilling and inventive, then, regrettably, becomes sappy, mainstream and mundane.
  28. 40
    There's nothing blatantly wrong with it (except perhaps the red-assed baboon ex machina), but it's 100% shock-free and coasts to a formulaic conclusion.
  29. Director Barbet Schroeder is too elegant an artist for this material, which veers between routine cop-movie conventions and high-toned malarkey that seems a lot closer to Dungeons & Dragons than to "Thus Spoke Zarathustra."
  30. 40
    A sappy big-screen version of TV's "CSI."
  31. 40
    A moralizing thriller so listless that it plays out like a game of mouse and mouse.
  32. The shallow-seated problem with Murder by Numbers is that it's serious and doggedly intricate but not much fun.
  33. In context, it's utterly, dismayingly typical.
  34. 30
    Most obvious crime is first-degree dullness, giving us a thriller without thrills and a mystery devoid of urgent questions.
  35. 20
    This premise could, just maybe, make for a decent thriller, but everything about Murder by Numbers is so flavorless and rote, so devoid of real suspense and human interest, that you never suspect for a moment that the answers are likely to be engaging.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 29 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 10
  2. Negative: 3 out of 10
  1. Sep 2, 2014
    A somewhat acceptable ending saves Murder By Numbers from being a total mess. But, it is still cliché and derivative; it's poorly executed, poorly edited, poorly written, and poorly directed. The idea and story are okay, but the movie as a whole sinks. It starts to get a little better in the second half, but nothing can stop it from being typical genre fare. The whole thing just seems amateurish. Full Review »
  2. Apr 20, 2014
    With a young Ryan Reynolds a bad plot and an absolutely bad acting you have Murder by numbers.This is a bad crime/action movie but you can watch it if you have nothing better to do. Full Review »
  3. Aug 11, 2010
    In May of 1924, two young Jewish men named Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had planned to commit the perfect murder they had it all thought out in there heads taking seven months to put their devious little murder into motion. They picked there target a young Polish immigrant named Robert Franks; everyone called him Bobby, Franks was an extended relative and neighbor of Richard Loeb. The duo lured young Bobby Franks into the car where either Loeb or Leopold struck Franks with a Chisel and stuffed a sock into his mouth young Franks died soon after. They covered the body and drove to a remote location near Wolf Lake in Hammond Indiana; they removed Frankâ Full Review »