October 9, 1997 -- "Kiss the Girls" combines some of the plot elements and cinematic techniques found both in horror movies and mysteries to good effect.
It reminds me a bit of the horror film "Scream" in that it plays with convention a bit, but it parts company on the humor. This film is very serious. It also reminded me a bit of "Silence of the Lambs" in that both the hero and the villain are very driven people.
The hero, by the way, is black, something unusual in this type of film. Morgan Freeman plays a forensic psychologist named Alex Cross, poking his nose into somebody else's case in the south because his niece, Naomi (Gina Ravera) has become one of the victims of a serial killer. This is not "In the Heat of the Night" however, and the race card is not played in this movie.
Cross soon figures out that the killer may not be killing all of his victims, he may be keeping them somewhere, alive. The plot becomes a lot more complicated than that, however, perhaps unnecessarily so. The film also cheats a bit, throwing us off the trail of the killer with some misdirection. We're asked to believe the killer disguises his voice in his own dungeon so just in case one of his captives escapes they won't recognize his voice. Come on.
As it happens the wacko killer nut was smart to disguise his voice, because somebody did escape, the amazing kick-boxing doctor, Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd). McTiernan is so plucky and tough, she beats the stuffings out of the killer not once, but three times, which kind of damages the killer's image as a threat. You also kind of wonder why the killer kept coming back for more beatings. Maybe he likes a challenge.
Freeman and Judd are very effective in this film. The photography and editing are high quality as are all the production values. Director Gary Fleder hasn't had much major film experience, but he does a good job just the same. His previous feature film was "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead." This one is better than his earlier effort, it rates a B.
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