Along Came a Spider (2001)
Along Came a Spider, the second Alex Cross story to be adapted in to a feature film, once again takes a very procedural approach to its plot and keeps the action low key. As with Kiss the Girls, this reflects the intellectual nature of the central character, once again played by Morgan Freeman. This is a thriller where the focus is on using deductive reasoning and psychology to solve a crime rather than kicking down doors and breaking heads. The sequel is not quite as dark in tone as its predecessor and is more accessible with its traditional kidnapping plot about a congressman's daughter being abducted by her teacher. Naturally the case is far from black and white and Alex Cross soon discovers more complicated motives.
The opening set piece in which Detective Cross loses his partner features an appalling CGI car crash, which does somewhat diminish the drama of the scene. However, the plot soon picks up speed with a well-conceived and executed kidnapping. Michael Wincott's performance as the sociopath Mr. Soneji is robust and he works well under the prosthetics he has to wear in the in the movies first act. Mika Boorem performs convincingly as the abductee Megan Rose. I find that child actors can frequently be a little too worldly and slip into precociousness but that is not the case here. The character is both likeable and plausible.
The interaction between Alex Cross and Secret Service agent Jezzie Flanagan is credible and Monica Potter puts in a suitably world weary performance. The plot twist that inevitably arrives in the third act is adequate, being neither too incredible or underwhelming. The script fumbles the ball a few times with its reliance upon media coverage of the kidnapping and the internet as a plot device to advance the story. Movies seldom get technology right and even by the standard of the time, they vastly over play what is achievable using online resources. However, this is usually something that audiences can overlook as it has simply become an accepted cinematic trope.
Along Came a Spider benefits from a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack which is suitably distinguished. The movie is purposely restrained so it can focus upon the actual detective work. Director Lee Tamahori is usually known for more overt action movies such as Die Another Day and Next, yet adapts to a more minimalist approach on this occasion. The few action scenes that are featured such as the ransom money delivery and initial kidnap itself are well realised. Along Came a Spider may not have the same gritty edge that Kiss the Girls had but in some respects, it is more mainstream movie. Sadly, a third entry was not made in this series and the 2012 reboot, Alex Cross, was a misfire due to its focus on action rather than character.