out of Five
Running time: 107
Disappointing, badly plotted thriller, let down by some dodgy acting, poor direction and a script that makes The Da Vinci Code look like a masterpiece.
What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Guillermo Martinez, The Oxford Murders stars Elijah Wood as Martin, an American grad student who comes to Oxford so that he can study with renowned professor Arthur Seldom (John Hurt). However, Seldom actually turns out to be a bit of a bastard and he belittles Martin in front of a lecture audience.
However, Martin and Seldom find themselves thrown together when they stumble on the murder of Martin's landlady (Anna Massey) and discover that the murderer left a note with mathematical symbols on it, indicating that he will strike again. Naturally, the police dismiss the serial killer theory, so Martin and Seldom team up to try and solve the meaning of the symbols before the killer can strike again.
The best thing you can say about The Oxford Murders is that at least it uses actual Oxford locations. It also features a neat little logic puzzle that you can impress your friends with afterwards but that's about it.
The main problem is the script, which mostly consists of Wood and Hurt spouting incomprehensible gibberish at each other for almost two hours. The plot is boring too, while certain scenes (e.g. a love scene involving spaghetti) are embarrassingly painful to watch.
However, the biggest problem is the acting – Hurt can do this sort of thing in his sleep of course and he basically does, while Wood is painfully miscast as Martin, convincing neither as a brilliant student nor as a ladies' man. Indeed, there's so little chemistry between Wood and Leonor Watling (as love interest Lorna) that he actually looks frightened by her.
In addition, all the supporting cast (notably Burn Gorman as bonkers Russian study partner Yuri and Julie Cox as the landlady's sex-crazed daughter) overact like crazy, as if compensating for the dreadful script.
The Oxford Murders is a badly acted, poorly written thriller that's both disappointing and tedious. Avoid.