June 15, 1998 12:00 PM

Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen

If your subscriptions to Architectural Digest and Vogue have lapsed, A Perfect Murder offers a perfect quick fix. It is a glossy but disappointingly mediocre thriller in which the chic furnishings and glamorous outfits glimpsed onscreen are of far greater interest than the tiresome characters using them.

Douglas, with his hair slicked back and full of sleazeball rich-guy bluster, plays a Wall Street power broker who discovers that his young heiress wife (Paltrow, excessively wan here) is cheating on him with an indigent artist (Mortensen). He offers the guy a cool $500,000 to slay Paltrow, an offer the artist finds tempting. As the plot plays itself out, with predictable motives and secrets revealed, the big questions you’ll find yourself pondering have nothing to do with the possible murder but rather with just where one might buy that handsome copper saucepan with which the killer almost brains Paltrow, the name of that subtle shade of gray in her cashmere sweater and just how fabulous is that sleek bathtub faucet, a metal pan from which water cascades like a tiny Niagara Falls.

You’ll also find yourself wondering why Paltrow ever wed Douglas in the first place, since he is at least two decades older than she and not a nice guy. (In real life she is 25 and he is 53.) Not that the movie ever bothers to explain. It couldn’t have been for his money, since she’s due to inherit something like $100 million herself. And, given that she’s hitting the sheets regularly with Mortensen, it’s doubtful it was for the sex.

A Perfect Murder is based on the 1952 Frederick Knott stage play Dial M for Murder, as was director Alfred Hitchcock’s 3-D movie of the same name with Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. That 1954 film is considered only mid-level Hitchcock, a level to which A Perfect Murder, as directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive), can only aspire. (R)

Bottom Line: Okay thriller, but great if you’re looking for home-decorating ideas

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