Kiss the Girls

* * 1/2*

James Patterson's novel, Kiss the Girls, is the inspiration for the latest serial-killer-hunter movie. Gary Fleder directs this competent, but somewhat lacking adaptation.

Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) is a famous Washington D.C. forensic psychologist. Normally, he tries not to get personally involved in his cases, but that changes when his neice, Naomi, is apparently kidnapped by a serial killer who calls himself "Casanova".

Alex travels down to North Carolina to unofficially assist in the case. He joins the local detective Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes), and FBI man Kyle Craig (Jay O. Sanders). Their case has little progress until one of Casanova's kidnap victims, Dr. Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd), escapes from his lair.

There are a lot of good moments in Kiss the Girls, moments of mystery and suspense. However, the film is lacking a cohesive logical flow. The scenes and events in the film seem to be structured to prepare for the next upcoming scene, rather than seeming to bloom out of the seeds of character and event. For example, there is a red herring in the film that would only work if certain people had foreknowledge of the film's events. Or, in another case, two characters interact in an inappropriate way, counter to how their characterizations were set up, in order to spur the film along. In a tighter film, these nagging doubts should be less noticable, or nonexistant.

Morgan Freeman does a masterful job, as usual, though his Alex Cross lacks the depth he gave to Seven's Detective Sommerset, a similar role. Ashley Judd yet again proves her talent in her largest mainstream role to date.

The villain in Kiss the Girls is menacing enough, but lacks the deep characterization that made the villains of other serial-killer films (such as The Silence of the Lambs and Seven) so memorable. Instead, he's simply a superficial collection of unconnected methods and motives.

Riding on the talents of its stars, Kiss the Girls is a competent, worthwhile thriller. However, you get the feeling that with a little more work, it could have been much more.

[R] (Paramount)


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