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Familiar 'Kiss' of Death

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 3, 1997

If you enjoyed "Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven," Paramount Pictures has an offer for you: Both movies for the price of one.

OK, if you want to get technical, "Kiss the Girls" has nothing to do with either drama. But as forensic psychologist Dr. Alex Cross, Morgan Freeman is nary a shade different from the veteran detective he played in "Seven." In his quest to solve the disappearances of several women, Alex could cut many corners by contacting FBI Agent Starling from "Silence of the Lambs." She could tell him a thing or two about psychologically troubled men who capture young women and stash them in dungeons.

Alex, a detective and psychologist stationed in Washington, flies to Durham, N.C., when he learns his niece, Naomi, has disappeared from a college campus. With resentful cooperation from local cops Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes) and Davey Sikes (Alex McArthur), Alex delves into matters on his own.

It seems Naomi is just one of several women who have been apprehended by an assailant who calls himself Casanova. Seven are missing, two have been found dead. Gradually, Alexís patient accumulation of clues and superior instincts push him ahead of the Special Task Force Office. And in Dr. Kate Mctiernan (Ashley Judd), a tough-spirited doctor who escaped from Casanovaís lair, he finds a formidable ally.

Casanova, Alex concludes, is a collector, not a killer. He only murders his victims when they donít follow his strangely demanding rules. This means there is time to rescue the women, just as long as they donít provoke their captor.

The movie -- adapted from James Pattersonís novel by David Klass -- operates on the crime-movie equivalent of automatic pilot. It takes off, flies and lands without much creative intervention. However, director Gary Felder (who did "Things to Do in Denver When Youíre Dead") is a competent air traffic controller. And for a time, itís diverting to root out the real Casanova. Are the cops in on this? How about that FBI agent whoís always a step behind the latest development? And isnít one of the actors always the villain in other movies?

But unless you missed "Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven," there isnít much reason to watch this. The movie does afford us another peek into the quiet, collected manner of Freeman, an actor who refuses steadfastly to act -- and consequently is one of the best America has to offer. Sometimes, however, I caught myself wondering if that nonchalant act was simply a reluctance to invest emotion into a repeat role. But either way, he still subdues everyone around him with cool poise.

As the doctor who takes no guff and does a little kick boxing on the side, Judd pumps vigor into an essentially supportive role. If her role in the story seems functional, her presence makes her seem essential. With only a smattering of movies to her credit, she has turned throwaway appearances into memorable moments. "Kiss the Girls" proves the point again: This movie may be good for amassing recognition, but sheís looking for better. Maybe next time, for instance, she can play Georgie Porgy himself.

KISS THE GIRLS (R) ó Contains sexual situations, brutal forensic material, profanity and violence.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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