BARBET Schroeder's riveting crime thriller Murder by Numbers, which owes a huge debt to Hitchcock, centres on two friends who commit a murder for the thrill of it.
High school students Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) believe they have the intellect and cunning to outwit the police and orchestrate a " perfect murder".
They choose a victim at random from the local supermarket, kidnap and kill her, then plant evidence on the body to point the police in the direction of local drug dealer Ray (Chris Penn).
Tenacious crime scene detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock), renowned in her department for her take-no-prisoners style, is charged with solving the crime.
All of the physical clues point to Ray, and Cassie's superiors are more than happy to charge him with the crime.
Even her inexperienced new partner, Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin), who believes that police operations should be run by the book, is in agreement.
However, Cassie has a hunch that Richard and Justin are responsible for the murder, and she vows to stop the brilliant youngsters before they kill again.
Murder By Numbers builds dramatic steam with deceptive ease, as Cassie and Sam search for the one flaw in the boys' meticulously researched plan.
Bullock is, at times, too naturally effervescent to convince as an emotionally scarred cop, and the sub-plot about her traumatic past is under-developed.
And Chaplin has little to do besides succumb to his leading lady's voracious sexual advances.
The stars, as it turns out, are Gosling and Pitt, who manage to be both creepy and vulnerable as the murderous school chums.
They expertly play up the homoeroticism of the boys' friendship, adding hidden meaning to their verbal exchanges.
A neat but obvious final twist in the tail makes amends for a horribly clichéd finale set on a rickety balcony.