Film and TV

Murder to Sit Through

The fact that director Gary Fleder imposed the dismal Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead on Denver and the world is no good reason to kick his next movie in the butt.

There are plenty of other reasons.
For one, Kiss the Girls is a movie about a psychopath on the loose, just like 58.9 percent of all Hollywood movies have been since Dr. Hannibal Lecter slipped out of his cage, made dinner plans and went on to win the Oscar.

For another, it features the always admirable Morgan Freeman as a terminally clever detective who can deduce as quickly as Sherlock Holmes--a role he's already played in the grimy serial-killer flick Seven and which Jodie Foster played in the movie where Dr. Hannibal Lecter slipped out of his cage, made dinner plans and went on to win the Oscar.

For a third, it's as exciting as a curling match. Or a day spent watching doughnuts fry.

The Bad Guy here is a serial kidnapper who calls himself Casanova and keeps adding to the harem of beautiful young women he's got locked up in a dungeon somewhere in the woods of North Carolina. As it happens, that's bad news for co-star Ashley Judd, whose Kate McTiernan is a whip-smart young doctor with a taste for kickboxing, and for Washington, D.C., detective Freeman's missing niece, who can play the strings right off the violin. Our lunatic is a high-toned, tasteful type, you see, who needs to force his peculiar "love" on none but the cream of the female crop. A syringe loaded with amnesia drugs helps him along the way.

Psychologist, cop and Porsche 911 owner Dr. Alex Cross (Freeman) soon comes to grasp all this. Once heroine Kate escapes her abductor's clutches via a thrilling run through the woods and accompanying dive into a raging torrent, they set out together to catch the villain. The only problem is that a couple of leery local cops stand in the way, along with the fact that Casanova also seems to have opened a branch office in California.

How much more do you want to know? Director Fleder and writer David Klass, working from a potboiler by James Patterson, indulge every woman-in-jeopardy cliche, dramatic improbability and stinky red herring in the book. Then they decline to nab their man when they clearly have the chance. Maybe that's because they first want to tell us about the box of human feet they've just found in a freezer.

Such infelicities tax the patience of reasonable viewers, as does the presumption by the moviemakers, their studio and the advertising agency running all those godawful spots on the boob tube that what moviegoers really want this fall is another tepid, formulaic thriller about a madman or two who cannot understand the rules of dating in the waning moments of the twentieth century.

Freeman, whose choice of material continues to bewilder, and Judd, who's got some real acting talent, both look completely miserable in this familiar hash of a project. As for director Fleder, he'll likely never eat lunch in this town again. Not even if Dr. Lecter invites him.


Kiss the Girls.
Screenplay by David Klass, from a novel by James Patterson. Directed by Gary Fleder. With Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes and Tony Goldwyn.

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Bill Gallo
Contact: Bill Gallo