a critiQal film review Kiss the Girls (1997)

Plot: Successful forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Freeman) discovers that his niece has gone missing. Once he consults with police Detective Nick Ruskin (Elwes), Cross believes that the disappearance is the work of an insane killer known as "Casanova." Meanwhile, Dr. Kate McTiernan (Judd) is kidnapped by this criminal and witnesses many other imprisoned women in his lair. After narrowly escaping, McTiernan teams up with Cross to try to apprehend the deranged Casanova.

711 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 33s)

After reading James Patterson’s latest novel, The President is Missing (co-written with ex-Prez Bill Clinton), I was in the mood to watch one of his books turned into a film. While not as prolific as Stephen King on the big screen, several of James Patterson novels have made their way to theaters. Having never watched any of them, I decided to go for the one that introduced film audiences to Patterson’s cop hero, Alex Cross: Kiss the Girls.

While James Patterson novels are usually a good read (and national bestsellers), the film versions haven’t fared as well. Still, Kiss the Girls did look interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. But, would it be able to live up to James Patterson’s flair with the written word? Or had Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and the rest attached themselves to a dud?

Morgan Freeman stars as Alex Cross, a police forensic psychologist. He’s easily the best thing in Kiss the Girls. As usual, he’s likeable yet intense, focused on solving the case even while guiding the viewer along. Unfortunately, he’s about the only reason to watch Kiss the Girls all the way through.

Ashley Judd hasn’t seemed to have as much luck with thrillers (notably the awful Double Jeopardy), and she definitely tries real hard in Kiss the Girls. Unfortunately, she has an aloofness about her that never really lets her connect with the audience. It’s too bad, since she’s an integral part of drawing the viewer into the story. Without that connection with her, the viewer only has Morgan Freeman’s cross to focus on, and, therefore, have time to find the flaws in the storyline.

And there are certainly a lot of flaws in Kiss the Girls. While the film starts off well, introducing Freeman’s Cross decently and getting him involved in the hunt for this serial killer, it quickly starts falling apart. In the police world of this film, it seems, the cops are buffoons and any celebrity is easily invited into the case. And if they have a personal investment in the serial killer? Aw heck, that’s even better!

That’s just plain ridiculous. While there is such a thing as stretching the boundaries in the movie business, ignoring them all together usually isn’t how it’s done. Not only would he not be allowed to investigate a case that he has a personal connection to, he wouldn’t be allowed to do it out of his jurisdiction, much less out of state or across the country. And, despite all the “experts” mentioned by one of the cops in the film, nobody but Alex Cross pieces together the obvious clues. Even by the end of the film, the rest of the cops are still bumbling around, 20 steps behind Alex.

And therein is the biggest flaw with a lot of crime thrillers. Of course, the filmmakers want their hero to piece together everything first. But, there is such a thing as making the other cops look too inept, and Kiss the Girls crosses that line over and over. For example, if someone escapes from a serial killer, how could the cops blanket an area and miss out on a giant lair? Even the hero doesn’t even think of looking around the area until much later in the film. Um….even the smart guy can’t figure out this obvious course of action right away? Huh?

While James Patterson may be good at putting words to paper to tell a thrilling tale, it’s obvious that when his films get the big-screen adaption, he’s not really included in the process – at least in the case of Kiss the Girls. While it starts off as a smart thriller, and Morgan Freeman – as usual – is worth watching, the film quickly goes off the rails, and even solid actors like Cary Elwes and Jay O. Sanders get lost in the shuffle.

It’s too bad. Maybe if James Patterson gets to write the screenplay, then maybe – just maybe – we might get a film that would live up to one of his books. While there are several film versions of his novels I haven’t seen yet, Kiss the Girls doesn’t really give me much hope that other screenwriters have been able to do any better.

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