I’m glad that with all of his talent and presence that an actor like Morgan Freeman was able to find a thriller/action series to call his own. Too bad it’s this one. Based on James Patterson’s novel, 1997’s “Kiss the Girls” became a surprise hit with Freeman in the lead role as criminal profiler Dr. Alex Cross. Paramount Studios chose to follow it up with an earlier book, Patterson’s “Along Came a Spider”. In this episode, the action kicks in with the the kidnapping of Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), the daughter of a U.S. Senator (Michæl Moriarty). Pretending to be a teacher at the girl’s high-security private school for two years, Gary Soneji (Michæl Wincott) escapes with his victim right under the nose of the Secret Service detail, led by Agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter). Soneji is attempting to commit one of those regular “crimes of the century”. Needing someone he feels will appreciate his efforts, his one and only call is to noted author and crime expert, Dr. Alex Cross. Then things get really complicated for everyone. Cheesy plot ensues.
Basically, “Along Came a Spider” follows (too) much the same plot structure as “Kiss the Girls”. Dr. Cross is in a race against time to find a kidnap victim. The victim turns out to be more resourceful than the kidnapper had thought. …and if you follow a few clumsily placed clues, you might realize that there is more than one villain to worry about.
Now we’ve been through around a million of this kind of thriller over the last couple of decades. As the basic format itself holds little novelty, the strengths of any such picture lie in a few specific areas. One is in achieving a specific style or tone, as in Michæl Mann’s “Manhunter”, Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs”, or in David Fincher’s “Seven”. In this case, director Lee Tamahori isn’t nearly in the same league (hell, Demme isn’t even Demme anymore) as “Along Came a Spider” rises only to level of “competent”. Another strength is the image the villain creates in the minds of the audience. Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and Kevin Spacey’s John Doe from “Seven” are true monsters. While Wincott is a great actor and was a fantastic enemy for “The Crow”, his character is rather small and petty in his goals. The script humanizes him a little too much. It’s really not his fault as neither Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Christopher Walken, or anyone else on the psycho short list could probably have done any better with this material. This leaves the matter of how clever a film is and, well, we probably shouldn’t even bother going there. The plot is a little difficult to swallow, as is the complicity of a couple of specific characters. The best I can say is that this was a relatively inoffensive way to pass a couple of hours, but after about a day I’m having trouble remembering any of it already.