Handsome, smooth, clean-cut, professional, respected guys
do not rape, molest, or otherwise harass women. They can
get all the attractive women they want by perfectly legitimate
means. Right? Wrong, of course. "Kiss the Girls" shows
that idea for the mere myth that it is. Why would a
good-looking man who plays by society's rules in every other
way--getting the necessary training to enter a prestigious field,
dressing smartly, patronizing the right places--want to
persecute those whom they can easily attract? To demean
them. Theories abound as to why they have this need, but
according to the killer in David Klass's adaptation of James
Patterson's novel directed by Gary Fleder, the craving is
primal. Men may hide the fancy from themselves, but deep
down it's there.
With such reasoning, perpetrators of heinous crimes try to
gain just a little sympathy from the audience. In "The
Peacemaker," Dusan Gavrich (Marcel Iures) justifies the
blowing up of the U.N. by the pain he feels when he sees his
daughter gunned down in his native Bosnia, a crime he
blames on the western powers. In "Air Force One" Ivan (Gary
Oldman) condemns the U.S. for the deaths of 100,000 Iraquis
in the Gulf War, giving him the excuse he needs to hold the
president of the U.S. hostage. In "Kiss the Girls," a kidnapper
feels the need to bring strong, professional women down to
size, and so he "collects" people of talent, including a talented
violinist and an intern in a Durham, North Carolina hospital.
Unfortunately for him the violinist is the niece of a crack
D.C.P.D. forensic psychologist, Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan
Freeman) and the doctor, Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd) is a
willful kick-boxer who does not take victimization lying down.
"Kiss the Girls" is a police drama which at times, particularly
in a climactic scene, can hold the audience at tight rein in
some edge-of-the-seat theatrics, as a psychotic killer and
tormenter uses his considerable wiles to destroy the cunning
of a master at penetrating the criminal mind. The story
begins by establishing Dr. Cross's skills, as he talks a woman,
who has just murdered her husband, into handing over a gun
which she has virtually swallowed, safety off and ready for
action. Cross, a ultra-smooth, best-selling author who drives
a Porsche, takes a personal interest in a case when his neice
Naomi Cross (Gina Ravera) si reported missing from her
Durham college campus. The local police suspect that she is
one of eight women who have vanished, two of whom have
been been found tied with sophisticated knots to trees in a
woodland, sexually violated. The Durham police assigned to
the case Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes) and Sikes (Alex McArthur),
report that the killer is known to his victims as Casanova.
The situation takes a new turn when Kate is abducted from
her isolated home and taken to a hidden cave in the woods,
placed in a room by her masked captor and told not to try
escape or communciation with the other women he is holding.
The plot thickens when it is discovered that this killer seems
to be bi-coastal, committing crimes in Los Angeles as well as
North CArolina, a situation which had not occurred in the U.S.
since the 1920s. At one point, however, we see the hands of
the criminal pecking out commands on the internet,
transmitting a picture of one of his victims and receiving an
answer from yet another person who feels that Kate is a very
good specimen indeed.
"Kiss the Girls" takes internet pornography several steps
beyond the pale as two offenders seem to be comparing their
activities. They share a common interest in collecting harems
of women in much the way a group of nerds might discuss
their accumulation of geckoes on web sites.
"Kiss the Girls" is elevated above the usual police drama by
the class which Morgan Freedom affords it. As a forensic
psychologist he loses his temper only once--when a suspect
seems to confess to the crime and taunts him about his niece.
His presence reminds us immediately of his role in "Seven,"
which this film seems to use as a rough model, which
features Freeman pursuing a weirdo who is out to punish
perpetrators of the seven deadly sins. Like that 1995 work,
"Kiss the Girls" is well crafted, intelligently written, well acted
and unsettling, wallowing in the depths of human depravity
and at times putting the audience in the place of voyeurs to
perverted activities. Ashley Judd is looking good here: pity
that she takes a back seat for a good part of the ride, putting
her talent at kick-boxing to practical use only toward the
conclusion. While "Kiss the Girls" is neither as gory as
"Seven" nor as intense as another fine feature about serial
killers, "The Silence of the Lambs," it forces us to know a bit
more about sick minds than we may wish to.
Copyright © 1997 Harvey Karten