At the time that I am writing this review I see 140 of these DVDs listed used starting at $2.98. I would consider it a bargain for 3 times that!
To the movie:
I have not read the Alex Cross novels, so I am not able to comment on the movies based on them being faithful or not to the book. I HAVE seen both "Along Came A Spider" and "Kiss the Girls" and I enjoyed "Spider" much more, even though KTG was a good stab at the thriller genre.
Morgan Freeman inhabits Alex Cross more completely, and I suspect that my appreciation of his performance was a combination of his wonderfully intelligent acting and Lee Tamahori's direction. This version of Cross is intelligent, compassionate, brave, and scarcely takes a wrong step. He'd be a good teacher and a good person to go get a beer with. And if some psychotic killer were on your trail - he's the guy you'd want tracking the killer.
*WARNING! Silence of the Lambs Spoiler in this paragraph!*
The writers of thrillers have begun doing cartwheels trying to out "surprise" all that came before. I can't pinpoint when this began.... but do you remember the surprise in "Silence of the Lambs" when Hannibal Lector suddenly appears from beneath the sheets in the ambulance? The story here throws in several twists, and although in the lesser thriller you can often sense the "twists" a country mile before it occurs, I found myself genuinely surprised several times.
It is worth mentioning both the character and performance given by young Mika Boorem as Megan Rose, the kidnapped daughter of a U.S. Senator. In many thrillers adults often behave as if they've been lobotomized, with victims giving killers ample opportunity to have their way and with killers who give the hero a boring explanation of their motives as they also give the hero plenty of time to get the drop on them. Megan Rose is no such character. She is smart, resourceful, and after being kidnapped she plainly has no plans other than escaping. A handful of times she thwarts the villains in ways that would not be thought of by any of the adults you see on "Jerry Springer".
Monica Potter stands up adequately next to Morgan Freeman's powerful performance as Jezzie, the Secret Service Agent who was supposed to be guarding Megan when she is kidnapped suddenly by one of her teachers at her upscale prep school. It seemed a little odd to me that Alex Cross would be initially reluctant to form an alliance with a Secret Service Agent when in "Kiss The Girls" he doesn't have any problem with becoming investigative partners with an amateur - a medical intern.
There are several sequences which I found clever and suspenseful, such as the one in which a ransom of a thermos full of diamonds is transferred to the kidnapper - I always wonder how kidnappers think they're going to get away with it when they're trying to ransom - for you to get your loot you HAVE to go to where the loot is, right? And if the ransom is several million, won't the cops be waiting for you? The way THIS kidnapper overcomes this dillemma is ingenious.... and I read on the IMDB that this sequence was based on a similar sequence from "High and Low" by Kurosawa.
At one point Alex Cross finds himself in the kidnapper's house, looking at two years of work that went into developing the kidnapping plan and he plainly has some admiration.
"Imagine the patience...the dedication..." he murmurs.
Jezzie responds "You sound like an admirer."
"Well, he's like a spider. I happen to like spiders."
I happen to like movies with clever villains, clever resourceful victims, sequences that pay homage to Kurosawa, and smart characters and actors like Morgan Freeman.
Plus you can buy it for less than a rental at Blockbuster....
I have to admit that I never quite understand why a director would decide to make a movie of a perfectly good suspense/mystery story (a best seller no less) and proceed to make wholesale modifications to the plot. It almost guarantees that a good piece of the audience will dislike the film simply because it diverges from the book and never even notice that it is a good film all on its own.
And it is a good film. Morgan Freeman does a superb job of portraying Detective Alex Cross as he tries to peel away the layers of a kidnapping that gets away from everyone - kidnapper and police alike. Gary Soneji(Michael Wincott), a teacher at a posh school for the children of the powerful, decides to improve his social standing by kidnapping Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), a senator's daughter. He has everything worked out in detail, including getting Cross out of of semi-retirement, in order to demonstrate Soneji's brilliance.
Joined by Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter). who was the secret service agent on duty when Soneji makes his move, Cross begins to sift through the details to try to understand Soneji enough to win Megan's Freedom. With each fact comes more confusion and the plot will zigzag all over the event horizon before the final confrontation. In many ways, this is a compelling combination of police procedural and suspense/psychotic film as the film switches back and forth between Cross and Soneji. A lot of people get shot, but the film doesn't dwell on the gory parts.
Mika Boorem does a fantastic job as the kidnapped girl, by the way. She manages to find an unusual balance between fearful weakness and a surprising inner strength. The film is well directed in a nicely understated way. If it wasn't for the arbitrary changes to an already good plot Along Came A Spider would have been a real winner. But even so, the basic surprises are carried over from the book to the film, the work is good, and the popcorn is warm. If you like tricky detection tales, you'll find this film entirely satisfactory.
on March 12, 2002
Along Came a Spider is Morgan Freeman's second appearance as forensic psychologist Alex Cross. The first was in 1997's Kiss the Girls. This is not a sequel. Cross is a character in a series of books by James Patterson. Like the books they are based on, the movies are thrillers. All thrillers are not created equally, and Along Came a Spider is inferior to its predecessor. Freeman is as good as ever. The movie is full of surprises, and there are indeed some intense moments. The problem is the script. Whenever the movie tries to explain a previous scene, that scene is more full of plot holes than the one it is trying to explain. Still, the movie can prove enjoyable as long as you park your thinking cap next to the popcorn.
The movie starts with a wild police pursuit in which Cross' partner is killed. Devastated, Cross goes into seclusion, uncertain whether or not he will be able to work again. Meanwhile, in a posh private school in the District of Columbia, student Megan Rose [Mika Boorem] is kidnapped by a teacher, Gary Sonji [Michael Wincott]. Megan is the daughter of a United States senator. This means that Jezzie Flannigan [Monica Potter], the Secret Service agent assigned to protect the girl, is in a lot of trouble. Cross, drawn against his will into the case, takes her under his wing, and the two set out to find Megan. The road they follow is full of dangerous twists and turns.
Besides Freeman and those suspenseful scenes, there are some good elements. I liked Megan, because she is a kid with guts. She is as much heroine as victim, using her wits as often as possible. Wincott makes a convincing villain, effectively utilizing his sinister good looks. The photography is atmospheric and gives the movie a properly creepy look.
It's too bad all the good parts of the movie don't make up for the confused plot. It is Sonji who calls Cross after the kidnapping and taunts him into coming out of retirement, but why he does this is never adequately explained. Sonji kidnaps Megan to get to his real target, Megan's best friend at school who is the son of the President of Russia. Why in the world is this kid in an American school? Why didn't Sonji just kidnap him in the first place? These are the kinds of questions many viewers will ask while watching the movie. A thriller generally works through suspension of disbelief. If you don't ask yourself questions until the movie is over, the movie succeeds in its mission. When the questions start during its first half hour, it hasn't done its job properly.
It seems as though I am in the minority with this film. I enjoyed the plot twists, though you had to follow them carefully. If you were watching you could, in theory, figure out who the bad guys are, though you really do not have all the facts to truly figure out every detail, somewhat like a Sherlock Holmes story.
Our story focuses on one Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), who has carefully planned to kidnap the daughter of U.S. Senator Hank Rose, unconvincingly played by Michael Moriarty. The point of the kidnapping is not to kidnap Megan (Mika Boreem), but to get access to a foreign diplomat's son, who is good friends with Megan. Mr. Soneji is, as might be guessed, a bit of a wacko. He wants Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), a famous profiler, to chronicle the battle of wits between them. Ultimately there is a showdown between the two of them, but the showdown does not reveal the location of Megan.
The plot twists and thickens more, and yet, there were clues in several places, I thought. I was quite puzzled when the security guards went running out the front of the school instead of just closing the gates. Further, I thought someone would have at least tried to grab a car to follow the kidnapper. Later, Jezzie Flanagan (Monica Potter) has a chance to shoot the kidnapper and does not, though she seemed to have a chance to wound him. All these little tidbits hint at the convolutions within the plot that are revealed only near the end of the movie.
The convolutions did entertain me, and I got much more enjoyment out of trying to figure out the plot than with gunshots and car chases. However, I prefer "Murder, She Wrote," "Columbo," and "Sherlock Holmes" to movies with nearly all action and no intelligence in their plot. When you watch this movie, you do have to pay attention or you will lose direction, and you will see more plot holes than there actually are. I thought nearly everything was explained as the movie progressed, and the only plot holes were mistakes by those involved in the kidnapping of Megan.
There were four standout actors in this film. Morgan Freeman is excellent, as usual, as Alex Cross. Michael Wincott is quite convincing as the marginally sane Gary Soneji. Monica Potter brings a good balance of strength and vulnerability to her role as Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flanagan. The real surprise performance is by Mika Boreem as Megan Rose. Megan tries very hard to get away throughout the movie, and uses her head continuously, incidentally saving her own life. Mika's performance is better than many of the adult actors in this film, and bodes well for a future career in acting.
It could just be that I'm getting older, and car chases and flying bullets just are not as enjoyable as they once were. Or it could be that I just liked the intellectual challenge of unraveling the threads of the complicated plot. In any case, this movie is clearly not for everyone, but I would love to watch it again.
on June 7, 2016
I choose this rating because the movie is good. What I like about the movie is that “A finely tuned diabolical thriller that'll keep you guessing.” (Sandie Newton, CSS-TV) and “Even better than Kiss The Girls!” (Steve Oldfield, Fox-TV) Morgan Freeman reprises his Kiss the Girls role as Alex Cross in this spellbinding psychological thriller that is “a knockout with a surprise twist.” (Bill Diehl, ABC-Radio Networks) After the harrowing death of his partner, detective and best-selling author Alex Cross has retreated to the peace of retirement. But when a brilliant criminal (Michael Wincott) kidnaps a senator's young daughter, Alex is lured back into action. Teamed with the Secret Service agent (Monica Potter) assigned to protect the missing girl, Alex follows a serpentine trail of clues that leads him to a stunning discovery the kidnapper wants more than just ransom... he wants Alex's help in documenting the crime of the century. With time running out, Alex plunges through a tangled web of danger and deceit to stop a madman and save an innocent victim's life. What I dislike about the movie is that I wanted to see more of it. I would recommend this movie to other people.
on April 30, 2002
"Along Came A Spider" is a prequel to the 1997 film, "Kiss the Girls" which also starred Morgan Freeman as detective Alex Cross. Detective Cross is a serial kidnapper profiler who becomes involved in a cat and mouse chase that ensues when the daughter of a US Senator is abducted from her high security private school. In order to solve the crime Freeman teams up with the head Secret Service agent in charge of security at the kidnapped child's school, a dubiously cast Monica Potter. Since I am only used to seeing Ms. Monica frolic about in lightweight chick flick films I was surprised to see her granted such a meaty role...but anyway.
This is the sort of movie that is better if you know as little about it as possible so I will not spoil it for you by getting into details. I will say that, like a spider's web, the plot is as intricately woven and full of dead flies (just kidding about the flies). Some parts of the story are completely unpredictable and exciting while others are almost expected...but in the end you'll wonder about the expected parts...that's all I can say.
Freeman does a fine job in his role...but he's had enough practice don't ya think ("Kiss The Girls", "Seven"). Potter, though at first seemed only cast for her pretty face, really pulls off her role well-I have to admit that I was surprised and as a results she's chalked up a few points in my book.
Recommendation: This film is interesting, suspenseful, and well worth the watch. The people I've spoken with have given it mixed reviews. Like it or not (you'll probably like it unless you have ESP like my Mom...she always figures out the who-done-it's before she even sees the film...well, that what SHE says) you'll have a strong opinion and it will give you lots of fuel for debate. "Along Came A Spider" is no "Silence of the Lambs", but to give it a little more credit...it's also no "Kiss the Girls" (and I mean that in a good way). You'll be thinking about this movie long after the final credits have rolled (check out the credits for "man who can't answer the phone" and "potentially evil guy on train", I'm serious!).
Some of the best sequences in this bewildering thriller come at the very beginning, with a sudden and dramatic turn of events send a Corvette convertible off a bridge with such terrifying and fateful results. Yet this mind-boggling and somewhat implausible thriller brings back Morgan Freeman to reprise his role as the brilliant forensic detective Alex Cross that he played in "Kiss The Girls" to such an electrifying effect.
Of course, this whole opening sequence just lays the groundwork for the premise of the film, which is that Freeman's character has been sent into a tailspin, feeling personally responsible for a colleague's death, and this self-enforced "retirement" from active casework becomes one of the provocative elements energizing the action in this thriller. thus, when an influential senator's daughter is kidnapped in broad daylight from an exclusive Washington private school, Cross is pressed into service in order to generate more ink and electronic media interest.
Of course, some of the gee-whiz aspects of the plot are implausible, like Cross using advanced computer technology to virtually explore the topography of a suspect's room via a photograph, thereby discovering mind-boggling clues from that photograph that strain the credibility of the plot, but not to worry. We are quickly sped on our way toward another aspect of the developing story.
Like the previous movie, there are a number of unanticipated plot twists here top keep one's interest, and the action sequences are very well done. The two aspects of rapid-fire action and a number of bizarre plot turn-arounds have one guessing right up to the end just what the blazes is going on. Like the prior film, it is also an interesting travelogue of the area in which it was shot, this time primarily around the nation's capital. After these two outings, one hopes to see Alex Cross (played by Freeman, of course) will return to truly establish this franchise with a while series of such movies. This is one for a rainy Sunday afternoon, folks. Enjoy!
on September 26, 2001
If you happen to be a fan of "Kiss the Girls," the 1997 surprise hit thriller, then you may be a bit disappointed in its prequel, "Along Came a Spider," which pits Dr. Alex Cross against yet another kidnapper who has an agenda to be dealt with. As Dr. Cross, Morgan Freeman makes the film watchable at best, but the ominous presence of loopholes, twisted logic, and the overall way in which the movie toys with the audience, results in slight disappointment.
The movie opens with a chase sequence that serves little purpose other than to set up a time of emotional turmoil in Cross's life, after the death of his partner as a result of this pursuit. His personal war against himself is put on hold when he discovers that a young girl, the daughter of a Senator, has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper wants Cross on the case.
Teaming up with Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), who was the child's guardian at the private school she attended, the two of them begin sorting through the clues and details involving the kidnapping, trying to get a lock down on the whereabouts of the teacher they believe responsible. To say that the movie makes a mistake by revealing the kidnapper's identity is a misfire, but the fact that we know who he is doesn't enhance the plot, either.
The movie is a sea of loopholes, from the solving of clues to the realization that the kidnapper may not be working alone. Consider a scene in which Cross goes through computer video in order to find a clue to the villain's whereabouts. He goes from searching through a classroom to a live computer camera that is based in the kidnapper's apartment, without any logical explanation for this transition other than a mere piece of dialogue from an extra to explain that what he is looking at is no longer recorded video.
In another scene, Cross has a conversation with the kidnapper about a ransom exchange that took place in an earlier sequence on a subway train. The amount of the money was a mere ten million dollars, but Cross congratulates him for his retrieval of twelve million. This is one of the movie's more admirable twists, letting us in on the fact that since our villain seems to know nothing of this ransom, then there must be someone else involved.
There are plot points that work, and those that don't, and in the end, the movie has toyed with us a little too much. "Kiss the Girls" toyed with our expectations, too, but allowed us time to build our own conclusion before throwing it back at us, all the while keeping our interest peaked. "Spider" toys with us in ways that leave little time to draw any sort of conclusion about what is going on, leading up to a particularly effective surprise twist ending that doesn't cheat according to the rules the plot has set up, though is somewhat hindered by the heightened disinterest in the lead-up.
It's good to see Morgan Freeman back in such fine form; as Dr. Alex Cross, this is the Freeman we all know and love. His ability to instill calm in the most tense of situations is remarkable, and his solving of the crimes is shown in an intelligent, capable light. I will refrain from commenting on the acting of Monica Potter, so as not to reveal what happens, but I gather that the audience will make their own decision about her acting in the beginning and the end once the ending arrives. Michael Wincott is an ideal villain, and however little of him we get to see, his performance is remarkably chilling.
In the end, "Along Came a Spider" is worth it for Morgan Freeman's acting, and some key plot points, but the overall effect the movie has is disappointing. The plot twists of the movie feel more like obstacles than advancements, while the central mystery never reaches a fully interesting fever pitch until the end. There are things that work and things that don't in this film; unfortunately, they never reach a healthy medium.
on December 18, 2013
Any James Patterson/Alex Cross fans will fondly remember this book as the start for both men's careers. However, the movie simply deviates too much from its source material to truly merit the description of "adaptation". While the plot of the movie was good and its cast was superb (isn't Morgan Freeman always?), this film might have done better in my eyes had it not been adapted from the novel of the same name to begin with. Ultimately, they don't share much apart from the character names and a few plot details. I do understand that a movie must take certain liberties with its source material, especially a novel, as there are time constraints. But so much that made this novel great was cut out and, in many cases, replaced by plot devices which probably did not take up more or less time than the original. Perhaps this was a book that would have been best served by a movie split into two parts (i.e. like the 7th Harry Potter book.) As a general crime thriller, I say it's far above average mostly thanks to its casting choices, but I feel so much more could have been done with it even if it weren't an adaptation. As for my recommendation, I do recommend it to anyone who's a fan of crime thrillers with a decent plot and a great cast. For all the James Patterson/Alex Cross fans out there, I'll leave it up to you. Enjoy.
on January 11, 2016
The first one I read and got me started on James P. Have read many and this one is one of my favorites and I thought I had it figured out but no way have not figured out any of his yet. Good one to start with and a great story to follow.