New York Film Locations

A Perfect Time to Revisit

8 April 2019

The 1998 crime thriller “A Perfect Murder” starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen has been selected for a revisit this month. It was a modern remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 “Dial M for Murder”, though the characters' names were all changed, and over half the plot was completely rewritten and altered.

Set in New York, Michael Douglas plays Steven Taylor, a Wall Street hedge fund manager whose investments and speculations allow him to live an extravagant, upper class lifestyle with his much younger wife Emily played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Unfortunately, his risky investments are unravelling; to alleviate the financial pressure and to maintain his status, Steven will need his wife's personal fortune, roughly $100 million. However, Emily is having an affair with a painter, David Shaw played by Viggo Mortensen, and is considering leaving her husband.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Steven not only knows about the affair; he has also uncovered David's dirty past as an ex-convict having a long history of conning rich women out of their money. Steven meets with David to reveal his knowledge of David's true identity and then makes him an offer of $500,000 in cash to murder his wife. At first David wants nothing to do with the plan, claiming instead that Emily and he are in love. Steven then reminds David that he already has two strikes against him and that the third arrest would be enough to send him to prison for 15 years without parole.

Steven has already laid out a detailed plan to supply him with a firm alibi. He will hide Emily's latch key outside the service entrance to his apartment. Steven will then go out for his regular card game, during which time his wife usually stays in and takes a bath. David has to sneak in and kill her, making it look like a robbery.

Film: A Perfect Murder

The following evening, when Emily arrives home, Steven removes the key from her keychain, hides it as planned, and then leaves. That night Steven takes a break from his card game and uses his cellphone to make a call to an automated bank number, while using a second phone to call his house. Emily leaves her bath to answer the phone but is attacked in the kitchen by a masked assailant; Steven listens as she is attacked. However, during their struggle she manages to kill the attacker by stabbing him in the neck with a meat thermometer.

Later Steven returns expecting Emily to be dead but instead finds the hired killer dead in the kitchen. He quickly takes the key from the killer's pocket and puts it back on Emily's keychain. Police arrive, led by Detective Karaman played by David Suchet. They remove the assailant's mask and the detective notices that Steven is surprised. That is because he sees that it is not David dead on the floor. Steven takes Emily to her mother's house, from where she attempts to call David, who watched a body being carried out the night of the murder and assumed it was her. Steven notices the phone line in Emily's room being used and presses redial once Emily is asleep to find she has called David. Later, David calls Steven and plays an audio tape of him on the day of the attempted murder and demands the remaining money promised.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Weeping, Emily tells her mother she has no intention of going home with Steven since she has decided to leave him. Later she goes to her best friend Raquel's house and over coffee they discuss reasons Steven would have to kill her. Racquel said that money was the first, but that given her financial status that Emily must have insisted on a prenuptial agreement. She then reveals that Steven had offered but she turned him down so if she died, he'd inherit around $100 million. Shortly after, Emily uses her connections to speak to someone in the financial district where she learns of Steven's serious financial troubles. She then visits the detective where he says that he's gone over her case many times and only one thing concerns him: that the dead assailant didn't have a key.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Emily goes to their home in Manhattan and attempts to enter the front door, but her key doesn't work. She goes down to the doorman and asks if Steven had the locks changed; he says no. This spurs her to go to the apartment of the dead assailant to discover that her key unlocks his door. Emily confronts her husband with this and the knowledge of his financial problems. To her amazement, he exposes David's sordid past and accuses him of being a blackmailer conning her and threatening him. When he saw the attacker's dead body in their kitchen, he assumed it was David and took the key from his pocket so as not to implicate Emily in any way.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Steven goes to the bank to get the money, using a bag containing a shoe box to conceal it. He goes to David's loft but finds a note directing him to meet in a public place. The phone rings, and Steven picks up thinking it's David, but it's a ticketing agent confirming David's train out of the country. Steven meets David in a park and hands over the money; David gives him a copy of the tape and then leaves to board a train to Montreal. Once on the train and assuming he is safe, he opens the bathroom door in his cabin; Steven lunges out and stabs him, taking David's gun and the money back in the process. A dying David has the last laugh because he sent another copy of the tape to Emily. Steven rushes home to try to get the tape before she can. At the apartment, he finds the mail still unopened while Emily is on the terrace. He hides the money and tape in his safe before Emily enters the room.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Thinking his problems are over Steven takes a shower, but Emily sees the now dishevelled bag that Steven was carrying before, alerting her to an issue. Steven exits the bathroom dressed for dinner and Emily suggest they stay in instead. She then suggest they have the locks changed since she still has not found her key. Emily pretends to leave to pick up food for dinner. Steven goes to the service entrance where he originally left the key for David. He finds it, and realizes that the killer had put the key back after using it to unlock the door. Emily confronts him, revealing that she knows everything now, having found the tape in the safe since the combination is their anniversary. Steven tells her his intentions of them working things out, but Emily says it's over and attempts to leave. Steven then attacks her and in the struggle she uses David's gun to kill him. The police arrive and she plays David's tape. She relays what happened after she told her husband that she knew what he had done and the Detective states she had no choice.

Film: A Perfect Murder

Besides a complete new collection of screen shots, there are also several new locations set to be added later this month.


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