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Kiss the Girls

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Kiss the Girls

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd
Director: Gary Felder
Rated: R
RunTime: 17 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Cary Elwes, Alex McArthur, Tony Goldwyn, Jay O. Sanders

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

KISS THE GIRLS has one of our best actors, Morgan Freeman (SEVEN) as well as an excellent actress, Ashley Judd (RUBY IN PARADISE). These two actors alone, make it an interesting film. But to be fair, I think director Gary Fleder, whose last picture was the uniformly panned THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, would have been hard-pressed to make a bad film with these actors.

Perhaps it is the TV-movie-of-the-week quality script by David Klass, based on a novel by James Patterson, that should reap most of the blame for not being able to fashion a credible story line out of a promising concept. I have a fairly high tolerance for implausibility, but a film that has you and your wife counting the unbelievable parts at the end is a bad sign. But still, the movie is entertaining and the acting good.

As Dr. Alex Cross, a Washington, D.C. forensic psychologist, Morgan Freeman comes close to repeating the role he played in SEVEN, but his performance in KISS THE GIRLS is not one of his better ones. The director has all of his actors on a short leash, which he uses to pull them back when they become too emotionally involved. Dr. Cross, who comes to Durham, North Carolina to help out when his niece disappears, remains remarkably dispassionate throughout most of the investigation.

When Dr. Cross arrives on the scene, he finds that there is a serial killer on the loose who has taken his niece. In the first of many unbelievable parts, he meets Chief Hatfield (Brian Cox) who runs a large and seemingly all-white police force. If you've been in the South recently, you know this is no longer true. The chief invites him in, but warns him to stay out of the kitchen. This hint at racial prejudice is never subsequently developed.

As soon as Dr. Cross sees the board of the missing women, a few of whom have already been found dead, he makes a miraculous deduction. He says of the killer, who calls himself Casanova, that "killing's not his ulterior motive -- he's a collector." The police then start looking to find where the women are hidden.

Although the common characteristics of the women are that they are gifted individuals, for example, Dr. Cross's niece is an accomplished violinist, they share the usual stupidity rampant in bad scripts. Ashley Judd plays an intern named Kate McTiernan who is a kick-boxing expert. When she hears someone in her house one dark and stormy night, she doesn't call 911 nor does she turn on any lights. Instead, she walks around in the dark looking for the intruder, who, of course, captures her and takes her to his lair.

In a scene straight out of the harrowing South African prison drama INSIDE, Kate tries to speak through the slit in her cell-like door to the other incarcerated women. Using her kick-boxing expertise, she later escapes. Although she runs through a cave and jumps into a waterfall, she manages to forget both of these key facts in her many debriefings. Both could have been important clues to the hiding place.

Judd's part is smaller than it seems. In many of the scenes she has little to do other than stand around, and her acting talent is largely wasted aside from her few meaty scenes. Incongruously, she tags along with Dr. Freeman and a friend who go on their own into the dense forest looking for the killer. Why they didn't get lots of back-up is never fully answered.

The director is fond of having characters look straight at the camera with the "I'm the one" look. And several twists are almost advertised in advanced with neon signs.

My favorite of the ridiculous parts has two cars tailing the suspected killer for tens of miles. How far do they stay back? -- about six car lengths and with no cars between them. This master killer, who makes almost no mistakes, never notices.

KISS THE GIRLS runs 1:58. It is rated R for bloody violence, a little profanity, and adult themes. The show would be fine for teenagers and probably could appear unedited for television. The performances by the leads are just barely enough for me to give the show a mild thumbs up and ** 1/2.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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