Along Came A Spider

View Date: April 6th, 2001

Cast :

Morgan Freeman Alex Cross
Monica Potter Jessie Flannigan
Michael Wincott Gary Soneji
Mika Boorem Megan Rose
Penelope Ann Miller Katherine Rose
Michael Moriarty Senator Dunn
Dylan Baker Ollie MacArthur
Anton Yelchin Dimitri 
Billy Burke  Ben Devine

Writer: Marc Moss, based on the novel by James Patterson

Director: Lee Tamahori 

There may be no greater crime in Hollywood, other than riding with Robert Downey Jr, then waste.  Wasted talent, wasted ideas, and worst of all, wasted potential.  There are numerous examples of each these which I will not recount but which Iím sure you can imagine.  Along Came A Spider is a combination of all three, taking an interesting and unique premise, a strong cast, and some unoriginal effective plot twists and turning it from a suspenseful, edge of your seat ride, into yet another attempt to shock and surprise rather than staying consistent with the filmmakers initial vision.  The result is a ride that that is enthralling, energetic, yet unfulfilling in its ultimate resolution.

The movie begins with a bang, albeit a slightly hokey special effects sequence, but it still grabs your attention.  Detective Alex Cross, from Kiss The Girls, returns and when we catch up with him this time, is in pursuit of a sexual predator, using his partner as bait.  Of course, this goes horribly wrong, and Cross goes into seclusion, blaming himself for his partners ultimate outcome.  He is drawn out, when the daughter of a senator is mysteriously kidnapped, and the kidnapper contacts and involves Cross in the scheme.  What follows, is an intense mental chess game, between the mind of genius, and the mind of a madman, which is unique and interesting to watch, because the focus is not necessarily on who done it, but when, or will, they be caught. Joining Cross in the search and chase is Potter, as the FBI agent who was responsible for the surveillance of the senatorís daughter.  Together, they become the unwilling participants in the kidnappers game while also springing a few plays of their own in order to triumph and return the young girl to safety. Battles of minds in movies can be quite entertaining when done with the style that this one is, showing each as an equal, rather than one being superior to the other.  The films intensity is created not from the search for who done it, as that is revealed early on, but from the intelligent, intense battle of wits between two minds, one great, one evil.  The chess game is what draws the audience in and maintains the tension.  Unfortunately, that tension is forsaken in the finale in place of an absurd twist meant to shock and surprise, but succeeding only in confusing, convoluting and inevitably stealing away the majority of the potential that the movie had built up.

Freemanís calm intensity fits in perfectly, although its not really a stretch since heís done this role, and this character several times over, in Seven, in Kiss The Girls and in the little seen, but underrated Under Suspicion.  However, he does it so well, its difficult to fault him, just kind of makes me wish heíd branch out a bit and utilize the talent that is obviously there.   Save the spunk of the young senatorís daughter, no other performance is really worth mentioning, including a nearly unrecognizable Penelope Ann Miller, and yet another bad guy role for Michael Wincott.  Most of the cast exist merely as the pawns in the chess game between Freeman and Wincott.  But eventually they all spiral downward in conjunction with the degradation of the sensibility of the plot 

Ultimately, Along Came A Spider is a suspenseful ride that comes to a sputtering halt  due to failure to remain true to an idea and conformation to the new premise of having to shock an audience to make an impression.  Personally, a strong story with a sensible conclusion works better than one that goes merely to twist the audiences brain into knots without any real rhyme or reason,  It just happens that movies like Usual Suspects and Sixth Sense happen to combine both.  Spider had the right idea for about an hour or so, but the story falters when it forsakes the simple battle of minds, for a hokey, and contrived conclusion that makes everything prior to it seem like red herrings and plot devices, rather than a wonderful game of cat and mouse.  It falls prey to the premise of having to twist, turn and shock in order to zing the audience and make the film memorable.  The move backfires, and nearly unravels the foundation that the movie had built for itself.  Takahori seemingly forgot what got him there, but this failure does not take away from the suspenseful ride that this film takes us on for the majority of its running time.  Pattersonís books have a tendency to be a bit talky and slow, and that is overcome here with dialogue, intelligent, necessary action and good performances.  Unfortunately, the end takes away some of the zip of what is otherwise one of the better thrillers in recent memory.  Itís a shame that this one could not maintain its status quo, like The Gift, instead coming in just ahead of its predecessor, and yet another mildly effective entry into the crowded suspense genre that continues to try and reinvent itself while still falling back on tired and tried conventions.  Itís worth a look, and a bit of attention, but not much more thought, since it all comes apart, and for those whoíve seen other similar films, not much of a mystery at all. ($$ out of $$$$)

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