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Cinemalphabet: K is for Kiss the Girls

October 11, 2010

Roger Ebert said of actor Morgan Freeman:

Freeman has a rare presence on the screen, a specific gravity that persuades us. He never seems to be making things up. He never seems shallow, facile or unconvinced, and even in unsuccessful films such as “Chain Reaction” (1996), he doesn’t go down with the ship: You feel he’s authentic even as the film sinks around him

Of actor Ashley Judd he said:

Ashley Judd’s debut, “Ruby in Paradise,” established her among the most convincing actresses of her generation, and “Normal Life” (1996), disgracefully relegated to video by a clueless studio, was one of the year’s best films. She can’t always transcend genre material (what was she doing in “A Time to Kill”?), but when it’s well-written and directed with care, as it is here, we find we care about her even in a scene of revelation toward the end that could have been handled more subtly.

Kiss the Girls asks the musical question: “What’s a couple of nice actors like y’all doing in a hot mess like this?” and then spends the next two hours trying to answer that question with varying degrees of success. Now, Kiss the Girls is not the worst film ever made. it’s not a terrible adaptation of the best-selling novel by James Patterson. It’s not even a terrible suspense thriller. It’s an average, paint-by-numbers thriller starring some sublimely talented and incredibly likable leads who try to keep a leaky rowboat of a film from capsizing under the weight of its Silence of the Lambesque rehashing of a sexually deviant serial killer, bleak cinematography and punishing running time. As Kiss the Girls trudges towards its inevitable and moderately satisfying conclusion I kept asking myself, How many Shaftastic black leather pimp coats does Dr. Alex Cross own?

The moody thriller is notable for introducing me to a lovely region of the country known as The Triangle. When Cross flies to Durham, North Carolina to assist authorities with the investigation of a series of kidnappings, I was more fascinated with this seemingly magical sounding locale than I was with the frantic investigation; at the time I lived in California. Two years after the release of Kiss the Girls I moved to North Carolina and as I’ve written elsewhere, as my plane made its descent into RDU, no actual triangle was visible from my window. *sad trombones*

Ashley Judd co-stars as Dr. Kate McTiernan, a brilliant doctor (of course) and the only victim of the serial killer who has managed to escape. And while it seems as though Freeman and Judd were a matched set, they actually only appeared together in two movies – High Crimes – but the pair will reteam for a project called Dolphin Tale. Judd and Freeman have oodles of chemistry, which is well utilized here and is also the best part of Kiss the Girls. Despite her acting chops. Ashley Judd’s filmography is filled with forgettable duds unworthy of her talents. Unlike Ebert, I think Judd was well utilized in A Time to Kill – it was Sandra Bullock, not Judd who was woefully miscast – but acknowledge that lots of times the Judd’s roles have been really underwritten. It’s a shame, because it seems as though Judd’s lack of meaty roles drove her out of the business. Not that we should cry for her; she just earned her Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government. Nevertheless, when Judd does make her triumphant return to films, hopefully she won’t be cast as anymore put upon, brutalized women who exact their revenge. Though, I’ll be honest, it’s weird to go to the movies on Thanksgiving and not see a film starring Judd.

One of my favorite things I ever read about the film – I searched for a link online, but couldn’t find one – was some chucklehead reviewer who cited “political correctness” as the reasoning behind Morgan Freeman’s casting. Apparently, the critic has never been inside a bookstore, library or airport, thus never browsed a page or two of an Alex Cross novel, where he’d discover the character in the book is – wait for it – BLACK.

From Wikipedia

Cross is an African-American detective and psychologist living and working in the Southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C.

A more reasonable question would be, “Did Freeman realize he wasn’t still filming Se7en?” That’s really my only complaint regarding Freeman’s performance; it was phoned in. Granted Freeman’s phoned-in performances are more entertaining than most actor’s “A” game, but still, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this film 8ight.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. hsofia permalink
    October 11, 2010 8:34 pm

    I’ve never seen this film … This isn’t the type of film I normally watch so by the time I noticed it on video/DVD, The Bone Collector came out, and that threw me for a loop. Then, a few years later, the next Judd/Freeman movie came out and I was just hopelessly confused. I think the posters were too similar or something.

  2. October 11, 2010 9:29 pm

    Before I wrote this entry I had to rewatch a chunk of this film – while doing laundry – because I couldn’t actually remember any of the key plot points or why a D.C. forensic psychologist would suddenly be called to North Carolina to investigate a series of kidnappings.

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