Morgan Freeman returns as Washington DC forensic detective and psychologist Alex Cross in this sequel to 1997’s Kiss the Girls. This time around Detective Cross teams up with a foxy Secret Service agent (Monica Potter) to track down a deranged teacher (Michael Wincott) who has abducted the daughter of a prominent U.S. senator from an exclusive private school.
Things start out promisingly as Det. Cross matches wits with the psychotic kidnapper but slowly the story drifts into Never Never Land as the movie struggles to fit square plot twists into round holes. Mr. Freeman brings compassion, intelligence and somber authority to his role, adding an aura of class to this project that it really doesn’t deserve.
Director Lee Tamahori coats everything with a high gloss Hollywood sheen and the story ticks along at a steady pace but it is all in a losing cause. Loaded down with implausible coincidences, Marc Moss’ screenplay (loosely adapted from the James Patterson novel) has to rely on giddy leaps of logic to keep it airborne. I don’t mind making a leap of faith as a viewer but I don’t want to jump the Grand Canyon.
Too many film-makers today take the attitude that a thriller isn’t worth its popcorn unless it throws the audience a few curveballs, like those sleight-of-hand plot tricks in The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects. What they fail to realize is that the twists in both of those films are the result of inventive, believable and painstaking plotting. A savvy director will even scatter subtle hints along the way. Everything in this type of thriller is leading up to a big payoff. You want to replay the story in your head (or watch the film again) to pick up clues you missed. There is something exhilarating about a mystery flick that fools you honestly and well. In a mediocre thriller, the obligatory “Gotcha!” is not an organic part of the story. It doesn’t evolve naturally from action or character. Instead, it is simply tossed into the mix, a sort of literary special effect, flashy, gratuitous and unsatisfying. Yes, Spider boasts capable acting and tons of atmosphere but when the outcome of the story doesn’t live up to all that sexy foreplay, you can feel cheated. It’s like a politician, dazzling its audience with promises only to leave them frustrated when the payoff turns out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors.