April 21, 2001 -- I really liked "Kiss the Girls," the first movie featuring super sleuth Dr. Alex Cross (played by Morgan Freeman). The new movie, "Along Came a Spider" featuring the same character, played by the same actor, is not as good, but it is an engaging story. It is based on the first in a series of novels featuring Alex Cross written by James Patterson.
This time Dr. Cross is up against the spider-like Gary Soneji, (AKA Jonathan Mercuzio), played by Michael Wincott of "Before Night Falls." Soneji pulls off a ridiculously complicated kidnapping which requires him to wear makeup for years on end, among other things. He has planned every last detail of the kidnapping. Catching him will be quite a challenge. There is much more to the story, but I don't want to give anything away.
Cross is accompanied by Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flannigan (played by Monica Potter of "Patch Adams"). The child who was kidnapped, Megan Rose (Mika Boorem of "The Patriot") went to a special school for the sons and daughters of diplomats and high level politicians. As such it had high level security systems and it was swarming with Secret Service agents. Rose, the daughter of a senator, is not a helpless captive. She is smart and brave and she attempts to escape.
The story begins with Cross losing a partner in a sting operation gone bad. He is reluctant to get back in to the detective business, but his presence is requested by Soneji, who leaves evidence in his mailbox. He is also intrigued by the subtle clues Soneji leaves for Cross to follow. The Secret Service doesn't like Cross being invited to the case, but are soon won over by Cross' intelligence.
Some of the plot twists in the film strained credulity, but I'll say one thing, they did catch me off guard a time or two and the film did keep me guessing. Freeman does a good job with his character, as he almost always does. Aside from Cross and Rose, none of the other characters in the film are very interesting. Monica Potter was O.K., but her character was rather one-dimensional, as was Soneji. There really wasn't anyone in the movie with the depth of character displayed by Ashley Judd's character in "Kiss the Girls" to help carry the film. For that matter, more could have been done with the Cross character, given the setup at the beginning of the film. It was a decent setup, but not much was done with it.
The film is competently directed and the production values are good. There are some nice location shots and there is an interesting ransom drop off scene. It is a pretty slick film for the most part. It is not a bad mystery thriller, but not quite as good as its predecessor. It rates a C+.
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