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ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2001)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Mika Boorem, and Penelope Anne Miller
Directed by Lee Tamahori
God bless Morgan Freeman. He is one of the few actors who can make you watch him in almost everything he does. He has this incredible and commanding presence that hovers over everything he does in the films he works on, and whatever the material, whatever character he plays, he holds your attention, whether you find his character to be flawless or flawed. With 1997's KISS THE GIRLS, he took on the role of Alex Cross, a character created by James Patterson who has written several books with Cross as the detective hero. Though it would be a bit of a shame if history remembered Freeman for his portrayal of a cunning detective, he nonetheless delivered a great performance in a ho-hum thriller (I consider the movie to be a guilty pleasure, thanks in large to Freeman and co-star Ashley Judd). Now Freeman is back in the role of Alex Cross, is what is billed as a prequel to GIRLS (though it really doesn't matter, the events in this film had absolutely nothing to do with what happened in the first movie). And once again, Freeman saves the movie from sinking completely. Don't get me wrong, the movie is pretty much a soulless thrill ride with one to many plot holes, plot devices, shocking but not so shocking revelations, cop talk and silly sub-plots involving wooden and uninvolving characters. But darn it all to hell, Freeman shines bright.
This time around, our man Cross is hunting down a man who has kidnapped the young daughter of one Senator Hank Rose (Mrs. Rose is played by Miller, in the thankless concerned mom role). The kidnapper is not interested in money, jewels, or making political statements. He wants to pull off the crime of the century, and this kidnapping is merely a stepping stone to an even greater kidnapping plot (the kidnap the young son of the Russian president, who is attending a school in America for some odd reason). The young girl taken was attending a private exclusive Cathedral school when her teacher drugs her and carts her off to his van outside. Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannigan (Potter), who headed security in the school, reacts to quickly to late, and the little girl is gone. The teacher, Gary Soneji (Wincott), is not a teacher at all, but a very well mannered madman who yearns for attention in the history books. He wants to be profiled, and who better then the nations top profiler on the criminal mind, detective Alex Cross? But is Soneji working alone? Will the little girl be saved in time? Well I guess you'll have to find out for yourself.
The best thing the movie has going for it is, of course, Freeman. For me, his participation made the movie watchable, while other actors, however talented they may be, would probably make the film even worst than what it was. And it is a well constructed mess. I'm not going to say no effort went into the making of it, because I think there was a considerable amount of consideration went into it. But everything falls flat, and all its good intentions are wasted on characters with development at an all time low. Silly motivations that belong in a SCREAM movie. And action that doesn't exactly cause you to sit on the edge of your seat. KISS THE GIRLS wasn't a great movie either, but for at least, there where moments where I cared for the characters and there where times I jolted a little in my seat from one of those famous false boo scenes that plague a lot of movies. I liked Judd's characters a lot, and was rooting for her the entire time. Here, the main female character comes across as non-existent. Either Potter doesn't have what it takes to rise above weak material, or the material doesn't allow Potter go any further than what she does. Wincott is an unconvincing villain, and there is a short and foolish scene where the big why I'm doing this is because... speech occurs. And the shocking revelation about two characters is lame. First off, the movie does what no shocker should, and that is introduce a new sub-plot five minutes before the movie ends, there just isn't a reasonable amount of time to form an opinion or even care. Second, it just adds on an extra and unwanted ten minutes all in the name of shocking people.
But I liked Freeman's performance. Is it a great role for him? Not really, he's always at his best when the material suits him. But here, despite his character being loosely drawn, he makes an impression that stayed with me throughout. It's a testament to being a great actor, having you notice someone who isn't developed incredibly well. I'm not going to recommend the movie just because I liked him in it, there's still no denying the fact that the movie is a mess that should have thrived to be something greater.
My Grade: D+