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Review: Kiss the Girls (1997)

December 26, 2008

There’s part of me that I can’t quite kill that knows the world needs movies like “Kiss the Girls” . I think thrillers are part of a dying breed which values a good plot over flashy effects or stunt sequences. For me, stuff happening in a movie is more important than any amount of good film-making.

The little unkillable part of me keeps screaming that plots are important in these times of character and technical emphasis. The other parts of me are saying that I’ve seen this movie before, and it’s been done better.

“Kiss the Girls” stars Morgan Freeman as Dr. Alex Cross, a forensic psycholigist. His niece, Naomi, has been captured by a serial killer who calls himself Casanova. Meanwhile, a young doctor played by Ashley Judd, named Kate McTiernan, is captured by Casanova and manages to escape. After she has rehabilitated, she joins Alex on the hunt for the killer, who is still holding Naomi and several other women.

Many of the elements of this story are well done. The killer’s hideout, for example, is hidden in the woods and hard to find by conventional means. The performances from the two leads are also quite good, though we’ve seen Ashley Judd do this before in better movies, most notably “Double Jeopardy”. The supporting cast is well-placed, with recognizable faces like Cary Elwes, Brian Cox, and Jeremy Piven.

But for every facet that works, there’s something else that comes off as lazy. Why, for example, are there no false leads in this case? How are there no other suspects for the killer other than the ones that eventually are proven to be? Would Alex really be kept on the case when he’s become so personally involved with it? How come the revelation about the nature of the killer doesn’t have more significance?

I guess it sounds like I want “Kiss the Girls” to be more conventional than it is, but what I really want is a reason to care. There’s simply nothing wrong with it on a technical level. I can’t fault the basics of the plot, but there doesn’t seem to be a push that would make it interesting. Alex is older than Kate, sure, but has that ever stopped a movie relationship? Especially in a thriller?

“Kiss the Girls” will pass the time adequately if you’re wanting a decent thriller with some all right dialogue and good directing. It’s significantly better than “Along Came a Spider,” which was also based on a Patterson novel and also featured the same cast and crew. It will probably play best to you if you’re doing something else like surfing the internet or doing laundry or playing a game or at a party. It’s by no means a bad movie. But if you want something original in the serial killer genre, then you’re going to have to look much harder. I recommend, as a start; “Seven,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Scream,” “No Country for Old Men,” or the underrated “Identity.” All of those movies have a much better command of style and atmosphere than does “Kiss the Girls.”

Do I recommend the movie or not? I guess not. I don’t feel any disdain for it, and I guess I’ll hang on to my copy, as I could put it to use to help waste an afernoon, but I don’t have a re-viewing pencilled in for any time soon.

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