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The Number 23
Time Out says
Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is just your ordinary dog-catcher until his missus (Virginia Madsen) gives him a curious paperback, ‘The Number 23’. As he reads on, it’s like looking inside his head, as the lonely boy protagonist becomes a moody detective, Walter’s own unfulfilled ambition. Soon, however, his fictional alter-ego’s mind-addling obsession with the number 23 leads to kinky sex, suicide and murder. How so? Well, what with birth dates both personal and famous (Shakespeare, Kurt Cobain) totalling the magic numeral, not to mention other ‘coincidences’, the maddening ubiquity of the number pitches the gumshoe right over the edge, setting up the possibility that the same fate lies in store for Walter.
The conceit has a buzz-factor – though the film eschews the most obviously spooky 9+11+2+0+0+1=23 – and an intriguing first half-hour draws us into the so-called ‘23 Enigma’. But turning this into a workable plot is beyond writer Fernley Phillips, as spiralling events tumble into inconsequentiality, and gestures towards moral seriousness prove ill-founded. Schumacher keeps it pacy, the murky camerawork’s very cool, Carrey suitably wide-eyed, but its limitations are finally only too obvious.