PERFECT MURDER, THE (director/writer: Zafar Hai; screenwriter: H. R. F. Keating/based on Mr. Keating's novel; cinematographer: Walter Lassally; editor: Charles Rees; music: Richard Robbins; cast: Naseeruddin Shah (Inspector Ghote), Stellan Skarsgard (Axel Svensson), Dinshaw Daji (Mr. Perfect), Archana Puran Singh (Miss Twinkle), Madhur Jaffrey (Mrs. Lal), Sakeena Jaffrey (Neena Lal), Amjad Khan (Lala Heera Lal), Ratna Pathak Shah (Pratima Ghote), Vinod Nagpal (Minister); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wahid Chowhan; Janus; 1988-India-in English)

"I'd write this one off as a bomb."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Imperfect comedy thriller directed by Zafar Hai, that is never more than slight or forcibly charming without being winsome. It's a Merchant-Ivory production, intended as a commercial international film the executive producers wished to base in Bombay. The film is in English and is adapted from a H. R. F. Keating novel. Its best asset is the fine cinematography of the bustling street-life in Bombay by Walter Lassally.

Mr. Perfect (Dinshaw Daji) is the elderly private secretary to corrupt building tycoon Lal (Amjad Khan). An attempt to murder the secretary in Lal's mansion leaves him unconscious and under the care of a nurse. Bombay police Inspector Ghote (Naseeruddin Shah) investigates, and is disturbed that Lal treats him with contempt and refuses to cooperate. Lal's witch-like wife (Madhur Jaffrey) also treats the detective as if he were a lackey. The inspector's wife (Ratna Pathak Shah) rails at him for neglecting her and their young son in the name of duty. The bumbling inspector's indignant boss assigns him to three top-priority cases: the Perfect murder case, a diamond smuggling operation and to the theft of the Minister's ring. The overworked inspector is also to be a guide to a visiting Swedish criminologist, Svensson (Stellan Skarsgard), in Bombay to examine their police methods. The Swede and the Bombay detective team up, turning the pic into a mismatched buddy cop flick, and even though they bungle everything they touch, they solve the crimes when they somehow connect all the cases together to the underworld diamond smugglers and a graft seeking Minister. Problem is the slapstick overwhelms the crime drama, and I lost interest in the story very early on.

The detective story transfers poorly into a film and is a poor example of some kind of cultural exchange pic. The low-brow slapstick antics are not funny, the storyline is needlessly muddled and tiresome, and the acting is less than thrilling.

I'd write this one off as a bomb.

REVIEWED ON 9/28/2011       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"