stars out of 5
Above-average thriller, boosted by a decent cast and a nice line in
cliché-busting, but severely let down by an obviously re-shot ending.
In Along Came a Spider, Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Doctor Alex Cross, the same character he played in serial killer flick Kiss The Girls, back in 1997 (both films are based on novels by thriller-writer James Patterson).
However, unlike a certain other hugely disappointing, high-profile serial killer movie sequel derived from a novel (clue: it begins in ‘H’ and ends in ‘annibal’), Along Came A Spider is just as good a film as its predecessor, and, more importantly, you don’t need to have seen
Kiss The Girls to be able to enjoy it.
The plot is, initially, fairly simple. At a well-guarded private school for
the offspring of political bigwigs (including, apparently, the Soviet
Premier’s son, brushing up on his computer skills), criminal mastermind Gary Soneji (a creepily effective Michael Wincott) has been posing as a member of staff for two years (he’s that dedicated, you see), in order to kidnap a senator’s daughter and perhaps re-enact the famous Lindbergh kidnapping he’s been teaching about.
When he carries out his plan, he whisks the girl away, right out from under the nose of Secret Service Agent Jezzy Flanagan (Monica Potter, from Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence), who’d been assigned to protect her.
Meanwhile, Dr. Alex Cross is recovering from depression, after a botched sting operation that killed his partner in the film’s opening sequence. Recovering, that is, until he gets a phone-call from Sonerji (who apparently seeks Cross’s approval in a Holmes vs. Moriarty-type way) which brings him onto the case.
It’s here that the film displays one of several small but refreshing
touches: instead of the usual ‘police force resentment at an outsider
snooping around on their case’ cliché, they welcome Cross’s help, at least after an initial confrontation scene.
Fear not, though – the expected clichés are mostly present and correct, including the Sudden Leap Of Logic that uncovers the next clue, and, in this case, the Impenetrable Latex Mask Disguise (see also Mission: Impossible and Charlie’s Angels).
As a general rule of thumb, you can’t go too far wrong with Morgan Freeman (unless you’re watching Hard Rain, but that’s the exception that proves the rule), and he doesn’t disappoint here, delivering the kind of seen-it-all, sage-like, wisdom-dispensing performance he can do in his sleep, and keeping the film watchable throughout.
Monica Potter (whose resemblance to a blonde Julia Roberts is nothing short of extraordinary) is good, too, and her role
here will hopefully lead to bigger and better things. There’s also good support from the likes of Dylan Baker, though spare a
thought for poor Penelope Ann Miller, here reduced to playing the little girl’s mother, when just a few short years ago, she’d have been playing Potter’s part.
In general, the film ticks along nicely for the majority of its running
time, taking some unexpected turns and delivering the requisite set-pieces. However, it blows it spectacularly with a very disappointing ending that was clearly re-shot to please brain-dead test-audiences.
Still, as these types of films go, it’s above average and certainly watchable. A decent enough Friday night movie.