The real-life duo Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Chicago students who abducted and murdered a 14-year-old boy in 1924 for an 'intellectual' thrill, has already inspired a brace of movies. Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 suspenser "Rope" was loosely based on the case, as was the 1959 courtroom drama "Compulsion".
Now Barbet Schroeder adds to his list of workmanlike thrillers ("Single White Female", "Desperate Measures") with a third take on this notorious cause célèbre.
Sandra Bullock is Cassie Mayweather, a seasoned homicide detective investigating the brutal slaughter of a young woman. The trail leads to Richard Haywood (Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Pitt), two gifted high school students who are indeed the guilty parties.
The catch is the pair have already made plans to frame a harmless janitor (Chris Penn) for the crime.
Cassie is not convinced, however, and embarks on a series of mind games with her prey - much to the dismay of her new partner (Chaplin), who fears she may still be affected by her own narrow escape from a psychotic ex-husband.
It's an intriguing set-up, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For two supposed geniuses, Gosling and Pitt make elementary mistakes - leaving vomit at the crime scene, for example - and act so suspiciously it's a wonder their own parents don't turn them in.
And while Gosling delivers a charismatic, dangerous performance in keeping with his brilliant turn in "The Believer", it's not enough to rescue the film from its by-the-numbers plotting and laughably overblown climax.