Sunday, May 29, 2022

Kiss the Girls

Movie Name:
Kiss the Girls
Year of Release: 1997
Director: Gary Fleder
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Alex McArthur, Tony Goldwyn, Jay O. Sanders, Bill Nunn, Brian Cox, Richard T. Jones, Roma Maffia, Jeremy Piven, Gina Ravera, William Converse-Roberts, Tatyana Ali, Mena Suvari
Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review:
"Kiss the Girls" marked the first feature length adaptation of a James Patterson novel, the second book in the series he has written since the 90s focused on detective Alex Cross. The film focuses on the adventures of Alex Cross, a detective who is also a forensic psychologist, who works in the Washington DC area, and who goes to Raleigh, NC once he finds out his niece has been kidnapped. The police suspects she's the latest victim in a series of crimes perpetrated by the same criminal who typically abandons his victims bound to a tree where they eventually die. A new victim is in the meantime captured, a resourceful doctor by the name of Kate McTiernan. When she awakes, her captor informs her that his name is Casanova. She is drugged but manages to hear other women also being held captive. Kate eventually manages to overpower Casanova and runs free. When she recovers she decides to help Alex Cross in his pursuit of this criminal. Their sleuthing eventually leads them to LA where a series of kidnappings and murders have been also occurring, but credited to someone going by the name of the Gentleman Caller. When their attempt to capture him fails, they soon realize that Casanova and The Gentleman Caller have been working together. As they make their way back to NC, and as Alex investigates the areas where Kate was found, he soon uncovers something that may solve the entire case.
Gary Fleder made a name for himself in the mid 90s with the well received "Things to do in Denver when You're Dead", which opened the doors for him to tackle studio fare such as this bigger production with a terrific cast of actors. The problem with this film doesn't lie solely with the fact that it feels somewhat formulaic and generic, but also that the characters themselves are barely developed across the entire inventory of them which we get to witness parading (sometimes briefly) throughout the narrative. The film also has the disadvantage of falling under a similar mantle of subject matter and tone to Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs". However whereas Jonathan Demme allowed for Clarice Starling to become a fully realized character before our eyes, Gary Fleder has shortcomings when it comes to illustrating both who Alex Cross is, the same going for Kate McTiernan. The film also has antagonists that are always kept at a distance and poorly outlined, making them and their actions/plans that much harder to understand (or at least grasp at their motivation). The supporting characters while colorful are barely present in the film, which is borderline criminal when you have a supporting cast of actors that includes Brian Cox, Tony Goldwyn, Cary Elwes, Jay O. Sanders and Bill Nunn. Ultimately what makes this film so watchable are the performances of its leads, including the always terrific Morgan Freeman, and the underrated Ashley Judd, who at the time was coming into her own in terms of lead characters, and who showed what she could do with an underwritten role (the gravitas and authority she brings in certain parts of the film are certainly commendable, but she soon becomes something of a sidekick, which once again speaks of some questionable decisions in terms of the adaption of the book). The production team is solid, including the cinematography by Aaron Schneider (currently a celebrated director himself), score by Mark Isham and production design by Nelson Coates. It's a watchable but forgettable endeavor.