Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Bill Nunn, Richard T. Jones, Jay O. Sanders, Cary Elwes, Gina Rivera
Rated R for Terror, Violence and Language
"Kiss the Girls" starts out strong, but when the second half comes around, it all falls apart. An initially smart script dumbs down, editing problems abound, and the dreaded "talking killer" syndrome rears its ugly head not once, but twice.
Forensic psychologist and best-selling author Alex Cross (Freeman) has just received some bad news: His niece Naomi (Rivera) has been missing for four days with no leads. When he gets down to Durham NC to investigate, he learns that she's just the latest in a string of kidnapping victims, and her life is in extreme danger. His only lead is Dr. Kate McTiernan (Judd), a brilliant young doctor who managed to escape the man's clutches.
Okay, it's not Shakespeare, but as far as gimmicks for serial killer movies go, it's decent enough. The problem lies in the execution. Not having read the book, I can't comment on whether or not the film's shortcomings have anything to do with the source material, but I will say that the film is based on a book by James Patterson, one of those authors who seems to have three new books available every time you walk into Barnes & Noble.
At least the filmmakers assembled a strong cast. Morgan Freeman adds a huge dose of class to the film, managing to make his role seem deeper than it actually is. Ashley Judd brings an inner fire to a badly written part, but she's like Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman: if she's in the movie, it's hard to complain too much.
Director Gary Fleder knows how to make a good thriller (he directed the underrated chiller "Don't Say a Word"), but here his work is hat of a director-for-hire. It's a by the numbers mystery with no style or panache. The script is pedestrian. There's little atmosphere to speak of. The villain has a creepy voice, but that's as far as he goes.
It isn't a disaster, but it should have been a lot better. Stick with Morgan Freeman's earlier serial killer movie "Seven." This is strictly late night cable fare.