Casanova Cross-es Freeman
Thinking about all the movies I have watched which feature Morgan Freeman I have to say I've never seen him put in a bad performance. The movie may stink but Freeman comes out of it having delivered another believable, authoritative performance. And it is the authoritative performance of Morgan Freeman as Dr. Alex Cross which makes "Kiss the Girls" watch able, that along with an equally good performance from Ashley Judd as Dr. Kate McTiernan and the storyline which draws us into a serial killer scenario. There may be elements to the movie which don't work and Cary Elwes is sadly one of them, but it still remains entertaining thanks mainly to Morgan Freeman.
Washington DC detective Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman - The Shawshank Redemption) finds himself heading to Durham, North Carolina when his niece suddenly goes missing. Liaising with the Durham police and the FBI Alex soon discovers that there is a serial killer at work calling himself "Casanova". With the help of Dr. Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd - A Time to Kill) who is the only person to have escaped from the Serial Killer who likes to kidnap his victims and keep them first, Cross sets about hunting down the killer.
There is something about serial killer thrillers which make us want to watch, maybe it is the need to work out who the killer is, maybe it's some lurking primal need to be shocked by dead bodies and macabre murders but there is something about a serial killer movie which is fascinating. And whilst "Kiss the Girls" is not the greatest serial killer movie ever made it is very watch able and well worked thanks to the direction of Gary Fleder who cleverly spends time establishing the characters rather than rushing into the search for a serial killer.
For the first 30 minutes of "Kiss the Girls" the whole serial killer element barely raises its head, instead we learn all about Dr. Alex Cross and his calming voice, his expertise and at the same time we learn about medical intern Dr. Kate McTiernan, establishing that she has medical knowledge and is a fighter. By taking the time to really establish these characters when everything kicks off with Cross's niece presumed to have been taken by the serial killer known as "Casanova" and then Kate we feel connected and interested.
The development of these characters continues through out the movie as whilst we have the whole serial killer element and Kate's brave escape, Fleder continues to build them and more importantly their relationship. There is a nice ambiguity about their relationship as it starts almost like a father and daughter with Alex being very protective towards her, caring for her in hospital and constantly reassuring her but then it steps up and whilst there is no actual romance there are scenes which make us think that there could be something deeper between them. All of this makes "Kiss the Girls" a far more interesting movie to those serial killer thrillers which expect us to watch and become interested in 2 dimensional characters and this character development is one of the strengths of the movie.
Another Strength is that whilst it may be typical in the fact that we never get a clear shot of the serial killer, the whole guessing game, the involvement of the audience in to trying to work out who the serial killer could be works well. And along with various twists and some action packed scenes "Kiss the Girls" most certainly entertains as it involves us in the story with a grimness and a touch of the macabre. In fact whilst there are several issues with the story, especially with various police procedures, the way the movie is put together, the way it flows at a decent pace, bringing in twists and allowing them to evolve means that these issues can easily be ignored.
Sadly the one issue which can't be ignored is Cary Elwes performance as Det. Nick Ruskin as it borders on the pantomime, going over the top in every way possible. It sadly ruins the various scenes he appears in which thankfully are not that many as the wonderful Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd take the lion's share of scenes. There is something reassuring about watching Morgan Freeman because everything he does seems so natural and believable, never delivering anything which seems forced or over the top and it makes Alex Cross a believable and likeable character. And Ashley Judd is just effective because where Freeman makes Alex Cross a calming influence Judd gives Kate McTiernan a fire, a strength and an anger but never allowing her performance to feel absurd despite delivering a few of the movies action scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "Kiss the Girls" is a very watch able serial killer thriller. Thanks to director Fleder's focus on building the central characters it draws you into what is happening and helps to make you feel connected. And with a grimness to the whole serial killer plot it keeps you interested as you try and work out who the serial killer could be.