The wardrobe department of Kiss The Girls are at some pains to indicate that Mr Freeman is not reprising his role from Se7en. Alex Cross is way too cool a cat to belong to the crumpled trench-coat brigade. In fact Cross looks more like John Shaft than Colombo, slinking around in a little beatnik leather jacket. Unfortunately, the nifty coat is pretty much all the new material that Freeman has to work with.
Director Gary Fleder took a sly pass at the Mob movie with Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, but he plays it straight in this, his second feature. For, while Denver started with a collection of clichés and then wrote them all off, Kiss The Girls chooses to toe the party line. This is Silence Of The Lambs 7: The One With The Cool Jacket.
Washington cop Dr Alex Cross learns that his niece has been snatched from her college campus and catches the red-eye for Durham, North Carolina - the kind of small town where the only thing dumber than the cops is the FBI. There, he quickly discovers that hers is just the latest in a whole series of female abductions that apparently have the local law enforcement agencies baffled.
But when bodies start turning up marked with the calling card "Casanova", Cross uses his extensive knowledge of the 18th-century Romeo's practices to surmise that the abductions are linked to some latter-day-harem-type scam - of course. And once Casanova's latest recruit (Ashley Judd) succeeds in punching her way out of the harem, Cross secures her help in guiding him back to the killer's lair.
Compressed from the novel by James Patterson, Kiss The Girls roars along at a fair old crack, happily trampling niceties such as realism and logic underfoot: the first commandment of this type of movie is that "the loner cop and his unlikely aide shall not ask for, nor receive, any help from the proper authorities". However, the proceedings are lent a respectable amount of credibility thanks to a sterling supporting cast and first-rate performances from the ever excellent Freeman and the equally good Judd.
Although the film's ending is fairly well signposted from an early stage, Kiss The Girls still throws up enough dead ends, red herrings and twisty plot nuggets to have its audience at least looking the wrong way. Stylishly mounted by Fleder, it is ultimately a superior genre movie which doesn't push back the cinematic boundaries, but certainly manages to push most of the right entertainment buttons.
Kiss The Girls may not really do much new, but it does deliver enough shocks and maintain just enough menace to keep the edge of your seat happily occupied. In other words, not quite a Se7en, but still...