Kiss the Girls (1997)
I recently re-watched Alex Cross, the 2012 movie based upon author James Patterson's character. My opinion on the movie has not changed and I still consider it to be a cinematic misfire. The main flaw being trying to take a cerebral character away from the procedural nature of their work and retrofit them into a modern action movie. It simply doesn't work and subsequently the film studio failed to reboot the franchise. However, because Cross himself is such an interesting creation, being a former FBI agent and psychologist, I thought I would take a look at the two previous movie adaptations starring Morgan Freeman. The first of which, Kiss the Girls (1997) I review here. The latter, Along Came A Spider (2001) I will write about in a separate post.
Kiss the Girls is cut from the same cloth as other cat and mouse style serial killer dramas. Unlike The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, it is quite low key and avoids the more sensational aspects of the plot. Murders take place off screen and the ubiquitous mortuary scenes are avoided. This works strongly in the films favour allowing the narrative to focus on Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), his methods and his nature. Freeman brings a very humane quality to the character and fits the role comfortably. The emphasis in this movie is on his investigation skills and mental processes. He's also a skilled politician and knows how to handle people and when to take risks.
The plot focuses on a serial abductor who is "collecting" beautiful and talented women. When his niece is taken, Cross decides to head down to North Carolina and lend a hand to the local Police. A major break occurs in the case when the latest kidnap victim, intern Doctor Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd), escapes from captivity. It soon becomes apparent that the kidnapper, known as Casanova, may well be working in conjunction with a similar West Coast predator called the Gentleman Caller. Will the pursuit of either serial killers lead back to where the adducted women are held?
The main strength of Kiss the Girls lies in the dynamic between Cross and McTiernan. There is a strong rapport between the two as they mutually support each other. McTiernan needs Cross so that she can rise above her perceived victim status. Cross needs McTiernan so he can find and save his niece. The movie also explores the practical detective work that is done in solving the case, rather than relying on doors being kicked down and suspects being beaten senseless. It is unfortunate that the one weak link in the film's plot chain is the character of Casanova. Although a satisfactory conclusion is arrived at, it would have been nice to have learned more about his past, his collaboration with the Gentleman Caller and his exact motivations.
Kiss the Girls is an interesting first attempt at bring Alex Cross to the big screen. It handles a very troubling subject with a degree of skill and director Gary Fleder is to be applauded for not lapsing into sensationalism. It is interesting to see that special make-up effects artist Steve Johnson is credited although very little of his work makes it into the final cut of the movie. It is also rewarding to see a different take on the savant detective. Overall the movie is a cut above the average, due to performances, solid script and directorial focus. It is also content to be about detection and solving crimes, rather than crossover needlessly into other genres.