Andrew Davis has made something of a specialty of directing thrillers. He made Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege, and Chuck Norris’s best film too, Code of Silence. He’s also responsible for the breathless chase of The Fugitive and for this remake of Frederick Knott’s play Dial M for Murder, on which Hitchcock based his 1954 movie. The “perfect murder”, beloved of films of a certain vintage, now seems almost as dated a concept as that of the criminal mind. However Davis and adapter Patrick Smith Kelly squeeze a little more mileage out of it by playing up what you might call the Gordon Gecko aspects – cash and deceit. Which brings us to the cast – Michael Douglas plays the powerful husband of an heiress wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) who discovers she’s been having an affair with a fairly broke artist (Viggo Mortensen). What then follows includes a little bit of a murder and an awful lot of chicanery. We’re in the world of the fork-tongued dialogue, something Douglas is a proven talent at, and both Paltrow (here auditioning for the Grace Kelly memorial ice queen show) and Mortensen show they’re not bad at either. There’s no point pretending this isn’t a hugely stagy film. But it doesn’t seem to bother Davis, who realises that the “action” in this film comes entirely from the verbal jousting. The ending – it’s a bit thin – but by then the enjoyment has been had.
© Steve Morrissey 2013