Posted: 05/02/2000


Kiss the Girls


by Del Harvey

The first filmed version of a James Patterson mystery novel translates into a very enjoyable suspense film.

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Kiss The Girls is the first film version of a James Patterson novel. Morgan Freeman plays Dr. Alex Cross, a Washington, DC, police detective and forensic psychologist on the trail of a serial killer who has apparently kidnapped his niece from her North Carolina dorm. The serial killer likes to taunt his victims, “collecting” them and keeping them before killing them. The twist: these women are all intelligent and strong. They shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. The killer?s advantage: fear.

The killer’s first fatal slip is when one of his victims escapes. Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd—Double Jeopardy, Where The Heart Is, Eye Of The Beholder) is willful and determined, a young doctor who insists on uniting with Cross in his pursuit of this monster. In this role, Judd has forged the character from which other characterizations have sprung, but none of them compares to the sheer strength and resolve that is McTiernan. Her combination of common sense and intellect, her “I won’t stand for it” attitude, prevents her from becoming an absolute victim.

Judd is the first of these women to overcome her fear and to not succumb to the torment and abuse heaped upon her. In truth, each of these women are infinitely more intelligent than their tormenter; his only advantage is a deep, pathological desire to control and do harm. It is the way in which he overpowers his victims, and the extent to which he will go in order to enact these vicious crimes that gives him power.

This film, as enjoyable as it is for a suspense thriller, also possesses an indescribable sense of courage to rise above the daunting and fearful. Freeman’s psychological detective has been through the mill. Like all hunters he is drawn to these dark, gruesome cases for a reason. He is intense, intelligent, and a loner. And he has the good sense to appreciate the courage of others, which is exactly what he does once he gets to know Judd. They are, in many ways, quite similar. This provides a proper foundation for the hell they must go through in order to capture this psycho.

Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Glory, Lean On Me, Driving Miss Daisy, The Unforgiven) turns in another fine performance. He is an actor of enormous capability and has been nominated for the Academy Award three times. He has the lauditory ability to turn otherwise pedestrian roles into living, breathing characters that stay with you long after the viewing experience itself. And Ashley Judd is earning a reputation as a durable actress who can stand up to the challenge of such capable actors as Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert DeNiro (Heat).

The strong supporting cast includes Jay O. Sanders, Cary Elwes, Alex MacArthur, Bill Nunn, Tony Goldwyn and Jeremy Piven.

I will admit that I have not read James Patterson’s book, and may be missing something because of that. However, taking Kiss The Girls at face value, for the obvious merits it presents and nothing more, it is very easy to cite this as an excellent suspense film and an enjoyable diversion. Kiss The Girls will keep you riveted until the very last frame.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He used to work for Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Directors Guild of America.

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