Directed by Barbet Schroder, starring Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt and Chris Penn.

After her success in Miss Congeniality, Bullock is back in uniform but 'Murder by Numbers' is a far distance from that film's fluffy beauty pageant premise. Here Bullock plays Cassie Mayweather, homicide detective and crime scene specialist with a dark secret of her own.

When a young woman's body is found in a ditch, Mayweather and new partner, Sam Kennedy (Chaplin) are first on the scene to sift through the forensic evidence left behind by the killer. But although all the scientific signs seem to point one way, Mayweather's instincts drive her another - towards wealthy high-school students Richard and Justin (Gosling and Pitt). After sparks fly during confrontations with the sleekly charming Richard, Mayweather refuses to believe - despite all evidence to the contrary - that he is not involved.

Richard's intense relationship with Justin, a nerd with a comprehensive (and pathological) knowledge of forensics, not to mention Rimbaud and absinthe, is the key to this "murder by numbers". Described as "orphans with credit cards", these bored and sociopathic teenagers cold-bloodedly plot the perfect crime - but their one mistake is in taunting Mayweather.

Not a traditional whodunnit - we know who the guilty parties are from the outset - 'Murder By Numbers' is more like a case study of a crime. Bullock is solid if unspectacular as the stereotypically unpopular cop-with-a-past, a loner who lives on a houseboat, using Jim Beam and short-lived affairs with fellow cops to quell the demons within. Partnered with Chaplin whose nicey-nice persona is just a little short of believable, she plays more off the charismatic Gosling (last seen as a convincingly confused Jewish skinhead in 'The Believer') while Pitt's chilling depiction of a young man with Nietzscheian ideals but not the stomach is eerily believable.

Although there are plot holes you could steer Mayweather's houseboat through and a melodramatic ending that sits uneasily with the rest of the film, 'Murder By Numbers' is an above average thriller.

Worth a Thursday night at the cinema.

Caroline Hennessy