×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Along Came a Spider

"Along Came a Spider" weaves a humdrum plot that's never ahead of the audience until three-quarters through and even then will hardly surprise the readers of James Patterson's first bestselling novel featuring uber-profiler Alex Cross. A prequel to "Kiss the Girls" -- the first Cross thriller adapted for the screen, also starring Morgan Freeman -- new pic thankfully steers clear of its predecessor's glumly lurid obsessions while remaining focused on the abduction of a young female innocent.

With:
Alex Cross - Morgan Freeman Jezzie Flannigan - Monica Potter Gary Soneji - Michael Wincott Ollie McArthur - Dylan Baker Megan Rose - Mika Boorem Dimitri Starodubov - Anton Yelchin Agent Hickley - Kim Hawthorne Kyle Craig - Jay O. Sanders Ben Devine - Billy Burke Senator Hank Rose - Michael Moriarty Elizabeth Rose - Penelope Ann Miller

Rather than a web of intrigue, “Along Came a Spider” weaves a humdrum plot that’s never ahead of the audience until three-quarters through and even then will hardly surprise the readers of James Patterson’s first bestselling novel featuring uber-profiler Alex Cross. A prequel to “Kiss the Girls” — the first Cross thriller adapted for the screen, also starring Morgan Freeman — new pic thankfully steers clear of its predecessor’s glumly lurid obsessions while remaining focused on the abduction of a young female innocent. Yet the very characteristics that have made Cross so appealing, particularly his mind-tickling abilities to assess and outmaneuver his criminal opponents, are reduced here to the most fundamental and predictable level. First-week curiosity will quickly fade, leading to an unexciting theatrical return for a Paramount release that will have to recoup in a big way in ancillaries.

While Patterson’s fans will have to refrain from revealing the story’s key twist, they may not recognize other elements that screenwriter Marc Moss changed in his adaptation. Script pares away considerable action and complications while altering the identities of the victims and the spellings of character names.

A new ending was reshot late into production, but may not have been a vast improvement on any previous variations of “Spider.” The conclusion is all of a piece with the rather plodding whole, helmed by Kiwi director Lee Tamahori, whose third Hollywood feature continues a string of disappointments after his first work, the bracing “Once Were Warriors.”

Though the opening moments shrewdly avoid the temptation to reintroduce Freeman’s familiar Cross, they are nevertheless as generic as can be. This thinking detective puts his partner in a dangerous situation with a serial killer, and like Sylvester Stallone’s character in “Cliffhanger,” watches her tumble to an awful, precipitous death. Months later, the self-doubting Cross burrows inside himself by building model ships, but a kidnapping is brewing to bring him back into the hunt.

At a tony D.C. private school, a teacher named Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), whose bad, W.C. Fields-like makeup disguise alone should make him extremely suspicious to authorities, teaches a class on Charles Lindbergh and has his eye on two prized pupils, Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), daughter of Sen. Hank Rose (Michael Moriarty), and Dimitri Starodubov (Anton Yelchin), son of the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Soneji gets Megan alone in his office and quickly subdues her and drives her to his waiting yacht. Chided for letting the kidnapping happen on her watch, Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter) seems to be in the permanent doghouse with top cop Ollie McArthur (Dylan Baker).

But Cross, drawn into the case by some evidence and a phone call care of Soneji, insists that Jezzie be part of the investigative team, setting up a frustratingly uninteresting relationship between them. Their supposed links — a passion for rescuing Megan, a gnawing sense of professional failure — feel more like genre requirements than authentic elements of their characters.

As for Soneji, it hardly gooses our sense of terror that he’s such a blank bad guy: He’s smart and — Cross notes admiringly at one point — as determined and methodical as a spider, and he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way. But he has no real eccentricities or oddities to make him an interesting nemesis.

The kidnapper’s unremarkable motive is to bring media attention to himself, which makes Soneji no more compelling than a contestant on “Survivor.”

A thoroughly odd and unconvincing meeting between Cross and Soneji leads to the kidnapper’s awkwardly realized death scene.

The twists that follow have enough of an impact to force auds to reconsider everything they’ve heard and seen to this point — a double-edged sword, as it also leads to consideration of the gaping holes in the plot turn itself.

As reliable as any actor in Hollywood, Freeman delivers the requisite gravitas, but the bland script curtails any personal touches he might have inserted were his sleuth character unraveling a truly vexing mystery.

His co-stars notably lack fire, from Wincott to the usually quietly dynamic Baker, who must settle for cut-rate dialogue and brief scenes. Potter finally has some juicy opportunities late into the game, but it is much too little, too late.

Pic’s visuals, especially Matthew F. Leonetti’s anamorphic lensing, have a fine sheen, and though Jerry Goldsmith’s score is not one of his more inspired, it’s accented by an itchy nervousness of which the movie could have used more.

Along Came a Spider

Production: A Paramount Pictures release of a David Brown/Phase I production in association with Revelations Entertainment. Produced by David Brown, Joe Wizan. Executive producers, Morgan Freeman, Marty Hornstein. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Screenplay, Marc Moss, based on the novel by James Patterson.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Matthew F. Leonetti; editor, Neil Travis; music, Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Ida Random; art director, Sandy Cochrane; set decorator, Elizabeth Wilcox; costume designer, Sanja Milkovic Hays; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Eric J. Batut; supervising sound editor, Stephen Hunter Flick; visual effects supervisor, Bill Westenhofer; chief makeup artist, Rosalina Da Silva; assistant director, Jim Brebner; casting, Denise Chamian. Reviewed at the Regent Theatre, L.A., March 23, 2001. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Alex Cross - Morgan Freeman Jezzie Flannigan - Monica Potter Gary Soneji - Michael Wincott Ollie McArthur - Dylan Baker Megan Rose - Mika Boorem Dimitri Starodubov - Anton Yelchin Agent Hickley - Kim Hawthorne Kyle Craig - Jay O. Sanders Ben Devine - Billy Burke Senator Hank Rose - Michael Moriarty Elizabeth Rose - Penelope Ann Miller

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” More Reviews Concert Review: Childish Gambino Takes L.A. to Church for [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. More Reviews Concert Review: Childish Gambino Takes [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content