There has been three of James Patterson’s excellent Alex Cross novels turned into movies, the first two being Kiss the Girls in 1997 followed by Along Came a Spider in 2001. As with all Patterson’s thrillers there is always an intriguing double twist at the end but what made the these two movies for me was having Morgan Freeman cast in the title role of forensic psychologist and policeman Alex Cross. Although I will watch any movie if he’s in the cast list, his interpretation and the persona he gave to the character of Cross was exactly as I’d imagined it should be from reading the books.
In Kiss the Girls, Cross travels to North Carolina after being told his niece Naomi has gone missing from her university there. The local police are somewhat condescending in their attitude to what they see as a theorist from the big city; none more so than Chief Hatfield whose approach to solving crime is akin to a bull in china shop. Local Detectives Ruskin and Sikes are leading the investigation but are out of their depth. A wall in their office displays photos of a dozen or so young women, including Naomi. A few of the victims had been found dead. Then another body is found in dense woodlands tied to a tree and it’s soon established she was left there alive to be eaten by the animals. Ruskin, Sykes and their Chief believe they’re looking for a sexual serial killer but Alex disagrees surmising that the perpetrator, who goes by the name of Casanova, is collecting young women for his personal harem and only kills the ones who refuse to submit.
Searching for an addition to his concubines, Casanova settles on Kate McTiernan a young hospital doctor whose hobby is kickboxing. After a violent struggle that allows Kate to show off her martial art skills Casanova manages to drug her. She wakes up in dungeon like cell, calls out and hears a response from some of the other captives similarly held. When Casanova enters to inflict punishment for breaking the rules Kate manages to escape. Running through the forest, still under the influence of drugs, with the pervert hot on her heels she comes to the top of a ravine above a river. With nowhere else to go Kate jumps and is later found downstream. Recovering in hospital, Kate bonds with Alex and they become partners in searching for clues to Casanova’s nest. Ashley Judd who never seems to look her age plays Kate.
Alex identifies the rare drug used on Kate and discovers that William Rudolph, a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, made the only purchase of it in recent times. It’s a flight to the west coast for Alex and his new partner where they learn that a serial killer has been preying on young women in the area who goes by the name of The Gentleman Caller. They catch Rudolph in an act of depravity but he manages to escape, much to the annoyance of the FBI and local police. At his house they discover a room full of body parts and Alex deduces that The Gentleman Caller and Casanova are two separate persons with separate modus operandi who communicate and collude with one another. A picture among many cuttings plastered over the walls is that of a suspect of the North Carolina police so the impetuous Chief Hatfield leads a raid to arrest him with the media in attendance, but Alex soon establishes he’s not Casanova.
Rudolph, The Gentleman Caller, has come east to hide in the Casanova’s lair but cannot enter as a concealed door is padlocked so he shoots it off. Alex is close by searching for where the young women are being held and hears the shot. He finds the concealed door and enters an underground complex. In the ensuing gun battle Rudolph is killed but the unidentified Casanova escapes, although all the captive women are rescued including Naomi.
Although the police and FBI still don’t know who Casanova is, Alex by now has narrowed down the field and we all know it has to be a character already seen. When checking through the police files once more the penny drops and he realises who it is. He tries to call Kate at home to warn her but Casanova is already there and has ripped out the telephone. We are now treated to an exhibition of Kate’s martial art skills as she overpowers the intruder and chains him to a gas pipe. Breaking the pipe to cause a gas leak Casanova threatens to use his lighter and blow them both to kingdom come. Arriving in the nick of time Alex uses a milk carton to shoot through and kill Casanova, so as to avoid a gas explosion.
On to Along Came a Spider where teacher Gary Soneji kidnaps Megan Rose, a senator’s daughter, from an exclusive private school. Recently Alex, blaming himself for the death of his female police partner, had retired from the force. He is brought into investigating the crime when Soneji sends him one of Megan’s shoes. Held captive on a boat she, is no passive prisoner and tries to escape by causing a fire. While he is putting out the fire Megan swims towards a fisherman on the shore but Soneji shoots her would be saviour and drags her back on board.
Jezzie Flannigan, a secret service agent assigned to safeguard Megan convinces Alex to take her under his wing so she can redeem herself by helping to find the kidnapped girl. Although looking a little young for the part, that entrepreneurial actress Monica Potter portrays her character to a tee. Soneji deliberately leaves a series of clues that only our celebrated forensic psychologist can unravel and it soon becomes clear to Alex that Soneji is seeking fame rather than fortune. This leads Alex to deduce that Megan is not the kidnapper’s real target, as her father is a mere senator, but her school friend Demetri, who is the son of the Russian president, is a much worthier target for Soneji’s ego.
Having received the cold shoulder from the Russian security staff protecting the boy, Alex and Jezzie stake out their embassy. Soneji, who takes over a police car by murdering its occupants, lures Demetri out of his safe house with a message the boy believes has come from Megan. As Soneji approaches Demetri our pair on stakeout intercede and there’s an exchange of gunfire. The boy is saved but Soneji manages to escape. Although she had an opportunity to shoot him, Jezzie holds back as with Soneji dead there would be no way to find Megan, but when the kidnapper returns to his boat he finds his captive is missing.
All are gathered at the senator’s house waiting for a call from the kidnapper. When it comes there’s a demand for a fortune in diamonds with instructions that Alex is to make the drop. With Jezzie in close proximity, Alex is sent on a complex route finally ending up on a train before smashing a window and throwing a flask full of diamonds out to a figure close to the tracks. With no return of Megan insight, Alex and Jezzie have returned to her apartment to review event when Soneji appears at the door. He tasers Jessie and holds a gun on Alex while they talk shop. It’s during this discussion Alex realises that Soneji no longer has Megan or any knowledge of the ransom demand. When Jezzie comes around she stabs Soneji in the leg, but before he can dispose of her Alex grabs a nearby shotgun and blasts Soneji into the next world.
While everyone fears Megan is lost forever Alex tells her mother that it’s not all over. He then returns to the school to study the security tapes further and realises that someone fiendish had knowledge of Soneji’s plan and every move, enabling them to kidnap the kidnapper’s victim. Accessing the personal computer of his new prime suspect Alex guesses the phrase used as the log-on password. He finds many files on the kidnapping including a likely remote location where Megan was taken to from Soneji’s boat. Well there’s a flaw in every plot! No master criminal would ever use a phrase as a computer password, particularly one that a psychologist of the calibre of Alex Cross could easily crack. Furthermore, leaving the location where Megan has been taken to on a computer is asking to be caught. Alex tears off in his familiar Porsche, hoping he will be in time to save the day. Meantime Megan is desperately trying to escape, as she now knows the identity of her new kidnapper. Of course Alex arrives in the nick of time to put a bullet in the heart of evil and save the day.
Having played the novelist James Patterson’s Alex Cross in the first two movies, Morgan Freeman was probably considered too old to play the third in 2012 entitled Alex Cross. Freeman having set the bar so high it was no surprise that the third movie in the series was disappointing to say the least.