Along Came a Spider
The recipe seems easy enough. Draw from as many spicy menus as possible. Throw in a dash of Cliffhanger's shocking opener. Sample a little phone booth tag from Dirty Harry, and a ransom-drop from a train out of High and Low. Stir in a taunting psychotic from In the Line of Fire who phones the hero with a blend of aggression and pleas for help. Add a smidgen of senatorial kidnapping from The Silence of the Lambs and adapt a pale version of Tommy Lee Jones's bossy order-shouting from The Fugitive. Thus are contemporary thrillers brewed. In the case of Along Came a Spider, it is entirely possible that these plot elements actually appear in James Patterson's source novel (adapted by first-time screenwriter Marc Moss under Lee Tamahori's dull direction). Patterson's gimmick, also seen in the earlier Kiss the Girls, is to have two killers working in tandem rather than one sole villain (an idea found in the Scream series as well). But the film is rather spoiled once the viewer catches on to this gimmick, unless there are compelling performances. There were in Kiss the Girls, but though Morgan Freeman returns as forensic psychologist Alex Cross, this time to investigate the kidnapping of a senator's daughter from an exclusive school, the plotting is weak and contrived, and his co-stars don't have the screen presence of Ashley Judd. Once again, Cross has a female helpmate. This time it's (the poorly named) Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), a Secret Service agent whose failure on the job allowed young Megan Rose (Mika Boorem) to be whisked away by a master-of-disguise villain. From there, Along Came a Spider devolves into listless chases and confrontations and "surprise" revelations, with poor Dylan Baker as the FBI guy in charge forced to listlessly command his team, "Let's move, people!" four or five times. Would that he had instructed the film thus. Paramount's DVD release of Along Came a Spider features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Supplements include a 13-minute "making-of" featurette in which the cast looks uncomfortable talking enthusiastically about a movie they must have known was nonsense, and which is notable for revealing that the author of the source book pronounces the name of his villain completely different from the way it's pronounced in the movie (Patterson makes it a three-syllable word). Theatrical trailer, keep-case.