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Kiss The Girls
Starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd; Cary Elwes
Screenplay by David Klass
based on the best-selling novel by James Patterson.
Directed by Gary Fleder
website: www.kissthegirls.com

IN SHORT: Decent thriller, almost a contenda.

The long and the short of it is, when you get down to it in almost everything detective-wise, detective work isn't very interesting. The compelling stuff happens when there is threat to the detective, or to someone close to him (or her); the bigger the threat the better.

That's where we begin with Kiss the Girls, which comes close enough to be worth the cost, but falls short just a little. For those of us who didn't read, and wouldn't compare the flick to its source novel by James Patterson (though Cranky's sister told him the book was terrifying) the movie just isn't as scary as the television commercial would have you imagine.

We begin with the introduction of police detective and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) who demonstrates his powers by cooly and calmly talking a .38 snub nose out of the mouth of an abused wife who has just plugged her hubby. Cooly and (relatively) calmly he reacts to the news that his niece Naomi has disappeared from her college campus, and high tails it to North Carolina to lend aid in the investigation.

Also on that campus is a resident doc Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd) who finds herself captive of the mysterious self- proclaimed Casanova, who has taken the women but killed only 3. Doc Freeman analyzes the MO and determines that Caz is a collector, not a serial killer, a theory proved correct when doc Judd escapes. Some in depth computer work later, and a suspect is located and tracked . . .

From this point on, the story takes a major twist, so I'll stop where the commercial does. When all comes back center, there's no real sense of tension or danger to the ultimate victims . . . because we have no real example of how dangerous or vicious the killer (if indeed Casanova is the real killer) is. Yes, we see a murder about to happen. Yes, we see the yellow tape and covered body. Gruesome? No. If it was, the eventual showdown -- and you know there is always a showdown between the good cop and the bad villain -- would crackle with danger. Instead, it's a cool and calm conversation until all is said and done.

Both Freeman and Judd are good actors, but Morgan doesn't get angry, and the little emotion he expresses when a member of his own family is in danger should have evoked at least a tad of an outburst. Judd's character has been kidnapped (good scene) and imprisoned (feh) with no real suspense save a terrifically edited escape (3 time Oscar winner William Steinkamp, editor); for which composer Mark Isham should get some credit for great escape scoring. That a semblance of on screen relationship between Freeman and Judd fails to develop -- relationship in this case means caring, not romance -- is the failure of the flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kiss the Girls, he would have paid...

$5.50

Cranky truly expected to be scared wet in my theater seat. But he, and the audience, all left dry as toast.

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