Kiss the Girls (1997) / Thriller-Mystery

MPAA Rated: R for violence, sexuality, and language
Running Time: 111 min.

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Alex McArthur, Tony Goldwyn, Jay O. Sanders, Bill Nunn, Brian Cox, Roma Maffia, Jeremy Piven, Gina Ravera, Tatyana Ali (cameo), Mena Suvari (cameo), Billy Blanks (cameo)
Director: Gary Fleder
Screenplay: David Klass (based on the novel by James Patterson)
Review published July 15, 2006

Kiss the Girls is a film based on the James Patterson bestseller, slickly directed by Gary Fleder (Impostor, Runaway Jury), and relatively engaging until about the final third of the film.  Like so many mystery-thrillers, there is a genuinely intriguing build-up, as clues begin to slowly trickle in, followed by a few nifty red herrings, but once all of the cards are finally laid on the table, the story as a whole becomes too preposterous to buy into fully. 

Morgan Freeman (Chain Reaction, The Shawshank Redemption)  stars as DC Detective Alex Cross, who is involved in the investigation into the disappearance of several educated and attractive young women, one of whom just so happens to be his niece, Naomi (Showgirls, Soul Food).  Ashley Judd (Heat, Eye of the Beholder) plays one of the eventual kidnap victims, Dr. Kate McTiernan, who happens to be the one to finally figure out a way to escape the strange and dangerous lair of her mysterious captor, only known as "Casanova", dubbed so due to his penchant for the amorous requests for affection from his victims.  Cross and McTiernan join forces in trying to locate the killer's hidden lair, hoping to find Naomi and the other girls before any more harm befalls them.

It's all a bit too overcooked, as the modus operandi of the killer hardly passes the snicker test, ending up in a finale where the "ingenious" killer leaves behind a ludicrous amount of clues, including his DNA, while giving the victim far too much leeway.  For a guy that spends weeks -- months, even -- carefully planning his next move, stalking his potential prey, it's amazing how stupid he is when he's unmasked.

Echoes of Silence of the Lambs don't bode well in its favor, as we've seen the grisly, stylish psychopath movie far too often, and done with much more flair, than Fleder is able to muster here.  Perhaps the only real saving grace for the film comes through the quality performances of the lead performers, with Freeman exhibiting the intelligence and suave demeanor to make for a respectable lead detective, while Judd is easily bought as the alluring, tough, and smart woman with the knack to get out of any scrape.  Unfortunately, the fatal flaw of the film isn't in the production values or quality casting, but in the plot of the story itself, which spends far more time teasing us than in delivering anything remotely plausible, or at the very least, intelligent enough to live up to the standards of the actors. 

-- Followed by another Alex Cross adaptation, Along Came a Spider (2001).

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo