Along Came a Spider (2001)
Anybody not tired of the serial killer genre yet? To that one out of the millions who raised their hand in the far back – you’re in luck! Enjoy Kiss the Girls? That same one in the back is even more fortunate. Here comes Along Came a Spider and its banality will knock you off any tuffet. Is that a word even used anymore? Spider is a continuation of the characters in Kiss the Girls (even though Spider was written before Girls). Morgan Freeman returns as Alex Cross, a hard-nosed police detective and best-selling novelist on criminal profiling. He’s suffering from Cliffhanger syndrome: the amassing of guilt from seeing someone close die in the line of duty and blaming themselves for it. See Morgan lost a female partner in a botched sting that opens the film with the worst CGI scene I’ve ever seen. He has a scene of regret then moves on to the case at hand, only to inevitably have the situation come up again and be the test of his nerves. It’s all standard cliche.
The crime that draws all our characters in revolves around the kidnapping of a Senator’s daughter at a lofty private school in Washington D.C. This is no serial killer movie, no, it’s a kidnap movie. Whatever the crime this flick centers on it still follows the superfluous serial killer movie rules to a grizzled T.
Monica Potter plays a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the girl who becomes involved with the case with her extensive knowledge of the kidnapper, Professor Sonje (Michael Wincott). Potter has previously been seen as the sad wife in Con Air, the dead chick in Patch Adams, and the girl who stars next to the guy whose acting is all about flat-lining in Head Over Heels. So in these terms Along Came a Spider is a step up. Her character is pedestrian and un-involved. She has no edge or depth and every time she’s on screen.
Freeman, God love him, needs to start learning how to say “no” to any serial killer (kidnap film) offered to him. He’s a great actor but the Alex Cross solves killers (kidnappers) franchise isn’t one to tie his rope around. Freeman does his best and brightens the film when it sags, but even he can’t save it. And his Executive Producer credit seems all the more ominous.
Naturally, an audience is left to disbelieve some of the absurdities of the genre but Along Came a Spider piles them too high and too fast to disbelieve. The kidnapper disguises himself as a plump British history teacher for a whole two YEARS in preparation for his act. Two years?! What would happen if she ever transferred? The worst part is his name – Sonje. Every time I hear the name it makes me giggle a bit. I cannot take anything seriously when the bad guy is named Sonje (“We’ll do whatever you want Sonje, just don’t harm the girl!”). Sprinkle unintentional laughter throughout. And for kidnappers and criminals these have got to be the dumbest since Colonel Klink. There is a scene where the kidnapper gives the detained child a meal… with a fork and knife! It’s like going to a prison and giving certain members scissors and leaving them alone for two hours.
If you are having a serial whatever movie you must make your serial whatever man intriguing or turn the flick into a guessing game until the end credits. The serial killer (I’m saying this now because he does kill multiple people – so there!) in Along Came a Spider is bland as can be, despite the wonderfully rich and venomous voice of Wincott. How as an audience are we to be enthralled with a whiny adversary that bores us?
There are numerous other head-smacking absurdities. Like when our ace Morgan Freeman looks to a computer belonging to a suspect and instantly remembers an off-hand remark in one conversation that of course is the password. And he even spells it correctly with an inclusion of a symbol!
The movie is based on James Patterson’s novels all seeming to have nursery rhyme style titles. Directed by Lee Tamahori (Mullholland Falls, The Edge), it has moments of briskness that at least keep the pacing alive. On its whole the film still does not work. It feels like reheated serial killer (kidnapper) movie just out of a Tupperware container. Along Came a Spider is nothing new, nothing different, and nothing truly entertaining. Pray for Morgan Freeman please.
Nate’s Grade: C-