KISS THE GIRLS (1997) 

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Morgan Freeman
Ashley Judd
Cary Elwes
Bill Nunn
Alex McArthur
Tony Goldwyn
Jeremy Piven

Gary Fleder



The Novel

Time: 117 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Suspense/Serial Killer

Most people seem to think that comedy is the hardest genre to pull off. I disagree. The thriller has seen better days and for that I am desperately sad. There's nothing like the feeling of shock and excitement a good mystery sends coursing through your veins. With such a talented cast, I had high hopes for KISS THE GIRLS to reverse the trend of mediocre fare seen in recent years. Adapted from a best selling novel, I assumed it would be better crafted with an exciting well-engineered plot. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Though the actors try their best and give powerful performances, there are three reasons this film never gets off the ground. I may see a lot of movies and even went to school to study them, but I still think I'm entitled to be surprised by the ending of a movie. I hate it when I guess who the murderer is in the first five minutes. I mean come on, make it a little difficult. It has to be somebody you've seen before, but does it have to be so obvious. The reason serial killers are so frightening is because they can strike at any time and because you DON'T know who they are. It's very rare they go after people that they are friends with. Granted, the person who turned out to be the killer (I don't want to ruin it for you) didn't know Ashley Judd's character in the beginning, but still...uninspired none-the-less.

The second reason this film doesn't work, is the complete lack of menace. The bad guy is only collecting the women. Every once in a while he has to kill one of them because they disobey his rules, but overall, murder is not his agenda. Since the girls aren't in direct peril, no excitement, no fear. Certainly not a pleasant situation to be held captive against your will, but without the impending doom of personal injury, you don't exactly care as much. I guess the filmmakers thought it would tense up the situation to make one of the kidnapped girls Freeman's niece, but he isn't really given the chance to emote much about that. Judd does a great job instilling the film with strength and desperation. You feel her terror when you first watch her escaping from her kidnapper, but not the second time while she recounts the event to Freeman under hypnosis. Mainly because it's the same footage. If you're going to go over the same territory it should bring about new revelations about either the plot or the characters. Reliving the escape does nothing except give Judd a chance to show her stuff. It's an impressive scene, but all it does is leave the audience wanting more.

"He's Don Juan on one side and Josef Mengele on the other."

The third reason hinges on the second. The film just wasn't bloody enough. Again, without the threat of death, not scary, no fear for the characters. Granted Ashley was kidnapped from her own home, in one of the film's most intense moments, and held captive by a strange man in a mask. She had no idea what his plans for her were, but she can't be frightened for her life once she learns the other girls are alive. Rape maybe, but death, not so much. If her escape had caused him to start killing them one by one and Freeman had to figure everything out before the killer got to his niece, that would've have been something. But alas, what happens is a convoluted second killer subplot that causes the film to meander in directions that have no bearing on the final outcome. Useless because the killer is fairly obvious right from the beginning. Sure, Judd's unwillingness to be a victim throws a monkey wrench into Casanova's pleasure, but though he may be creepy, he's never quite believable or scary.

Despite the film's inherent problems, Judd and Freeman give stirring performances. Judd as a woman determined to live her life no matter what and Freeman as the soulful, saddened detective who refuses to let evil get the better of him. They complement each other perfectly, making this film more engrossing and entertaining than it should be. This is another perfect example of a film ruined by a lackluster and undefined villain. You can't have a great thriller without one. The worst thing about KISS THE GIRLS is the fact that it doesn't tread any new ground. Not through story or execution. It's like a thousand other thrillers on the block, which makes it disappear from your subconscious the minute the lights come on. If you're a fan of the genre, you won't be overly disappointed by this entry, however, it's nothing to write home about either.

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