Along Came a Spider (April 19/01)
Admittedly, I'm a little biased when it comes to reviewing a movie like this. I'm a sucker for a good thriller (and even for a mediocre thriller, which Along Came a Spider essentially is) and a movie of this genre would have to try really hard to disappoint me.
Morgan Freeman returns as Dr. Alex Cross in this prequel to Kiss the Girls. This time around, Cross is called into action when a young girl (the daughter of a Senator) is kidnapped by the diabolical Gary Soneji (played with relaxed menace by Michael Wincott). Cross is paired with a young FBI agent named Jezzie Flanagan (Monica Potter) and the two get to work tracking down the girl through various clues.
Along Came a Spider isn't a smart thriller like Se7en or Copycat; instead, it's more of a watchable idiotic thriller. The real problem with the film is the way Cross and Flanagan come upon clues. Mostly, they just conveniently fall into their respective laps. There's one scene in which Cross is in Soneji's classroom (he had disguised himself as a teacher in the kidnapped girl's school), and he's looking around the room for clues. He discovers that a painting is missing, but it's not missing in a file on a computer. He clicks on the painting and wouldn't you know it, it links to (seemingly) Soneji's hide-out! Stuff like that happens a lot and it's pretty dumb.
But c'mon, how can you go wrong with a movie starring Freeman? If you look over his resume, you'll soon find that he's never made a bad movie. Sure, he's made a few mediocre ones (the recent Under Suspicion stands out), but really, if the Freeman name is attached to a film, you're almost guaranteed an entertaining two hours. And Wincott is surprisingly good as the villain. He takes the stock evil diabolical genius and does something a little different with it - he makes Soneji almost compassionate (misguidedly so, but compassionate nonetheless). Example: There's a scene in which his hostage attempts to escape and in the ensuing confusion, Soneji shoots an innocent fisherman. After retrieving the hostage, he admonishes her for trying and gives her a warm blanket and makes her promise not to do that again! It's a bizarre scene, but it works because of Wincott.
The denouement is a little silly, this is true. Many critics have pointed out the implausibility of such an ending, but does that really matter? It fits in with the rest of the movie and honestly, it was a twist I hadn't anticipated. And when a movie like this is able to surprise me, that's saying something.