"Se7en" and "The Silence of the Lambs" are the unavoidable points of reference here, as serial killer Casanova kidnaps talented young beauties for his morbid collection. Fortunately we have Dr Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) on hand to figure out what's really going on. When determined non-victim Dr Kate McTiernan (Judd) confirms his theories with a thrilling escape from Casanova through the forest, together they set out to stop the killer.
With his leather coat and immeasurable propriety, Morgan Freeman comes on like a cross between Shaft and Kofi Annan in this mostly unsurprising addition to the world of serial killer movies. In his absence even the kickboxing antics of almost invincible hero Ashley Judd are unable to lift "Kiss the Girls" above the mundane.
Opening with a scene in which Cross dissuades a beaten wife from suicide, there is a hint that the film might once, in an early draft, have had something interesting to say about abusive relationships. The brooding menace of the title sequence, with all its fire and seduction, certainly leads us to suspect a Hitchcockian blur between psychosis and romance.
Cinematographer Aaron Schneider and director Gary Fleder work hard at creating an appropriately obscure mood, especially in scenes in Casanova's lair. Ultimately, however, all of Cross' ingenious detective work amounts to a disappointing ending, which even the inspired use of a milk carton cannot render satisfactory.
Alex Cross returns in "Along Came a Spider".