Successful forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) discovers that his niece has gone missing. Once he consults with police Detective Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes), Cross believes that the disappearance is the work of an insane killer known as "Casanova." Meanwhile, Dr. Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd) is kidnapped by this criminal and witnesses many other imprisoned women in his lair. After narrowly escaping, McTiernan teams up with Cross to try to apprehend the deranged Casanova.
Kiss the Girls is a 1997 American psychological thriller film directed by Gary Fleder and starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Cary Elwes. The screenplay by David Klass is based on the best-selling novel Kiss the Girls by James Patterson. A sequel titled, Along Came a Spider was released in 2001.
Forensic psychologist Alex Cross travels to North Carolina and teams with escaped kidnap victim Kate McTiernan to hunt down "Casanova," a serial killer who abducts strong-willed women and forces them to submit to his demands. The trail leads to Los Angeles, where the duo discovers that the psychopath may not be working alone.
Washington, D.C. detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) heads to Durham, North Carolina when his niece Naomi (Gina Ravera), a college student, is reported missing. He learns from the local police, including Detective Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes), that Naomi is the latest in a series of young women who have vanished. Soon after his arrival, one of the missing women is found dead, bound to a tree in a desolate forest, and shortly after that, intern Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd) is kidnapped from her home.
When she awakens from a drugged state, Kate discovers that she is being held captive by a masked man calling himself Casanova, and she is one of several prisoners trapped in his lair. She manages to escape and is severely injured when she jumps from a cliff and into a river to escape from his clutches. After she recuperates, she joins forces with Cross to track down her sadomasochist captor, who Cross concludes is a collector, not a killer, unless his victims fail to follow his rules. This means there is time to rescue the other imprisoned women, just as long as they remain subservient.
Clues lead them to Los Angeles, where a series of gruesome kidnappings and murders have been credited to Dr. William Rudolph (Tony Goldwyn), a man known as the Gentleman Caller. Cross deduces he is working in collusion with rather than imitating his East Coast counterpart, but his efforts to capture and question him are foiled when Rudolph escapes. Upon returning to North Carolina, he traces up the river and alerted by a gunshot discovers the underground hideaway used by, as well as the true identity of, the man who calls himself Casanova. Rudolph is revealed to be Casanovas partner. The actual Casanova escapes, while Rudolph is shot by Cross. Cross then rescues the kidnapped women, including Naomi. After all that has happened, Kate invites Cross to dinner at her house to get away from work.
Ruskin drops by Kates house, simultaneously sending home the two officers guarding her. While Cross is at home getting ready, he discovers that Ruskins signature on the arrest warrants matches that of Casanova. Cross tries calling Kate to inform her that Ruskin is the real Casanova, but Ruskin has already disconnected the phone line. While conversing with Ruskin, Kate becomes suspicious of his creepy elaborations. Ruskin then drops his Southern accent, revealing his true self to her. After a fight and attempted rape, Kate manages to handcuff him to the oven. Ruskin slashes Kates arm with a kitchen knife. In attempting to free himself, Ruskin pulls the oven away from the wall, breaking open the gas pipe. Ruskin takes out a lighter, which would cause an explosion due to the leaking gas. Cross shows up and tries to talk him down but when this fails, has to shoot Ruskin through a milk carton so the muzzle blast from his pistol does not ignite the gas. Cross comforts Kate as the police arrive.Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross
Ashley Judd as Dr. Kate McTiernan
Cary Elwes as Det. Nick Ruskin
Alex McArthur as Det. Davey Sikes
Bill Nunn as Det. John Sampson
Jeremy Piven as Det. Henry Castillo
Brian Cox as Durham P.D. Chief Hatfield
Jay O. Sanders as FBI Agent Kyle Craig
Tony Goldwyn as Dr. William Rudolph
William Converse-Roberts as Dr. Wick Sachs
Roma Maffia as Dr. Ruocco
Richard T. Jones as Seth Samuel
Gina Ravera as Naomi Cross
Heidi Schanz as Megan Murphy
Tatyana Ali as Janelle Cross
Anna Maria Horsford as Mrs. Vicki Cross
Helen Martin as Nana Cross
The film shot two weeks on location in North Carolina on the streets of Durham, in nearby County parks, and outside a Chapel Hill, North Carolina residence. The police station was constructed in a downtown Durham warehouse. The majority of filming occurred in the Los Angeles area, with locations including the Disney Ranch, The Athenaeum at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, a house in the Adams historic district of Los Angeles, and on the campus of the University of Southern California in University Park. Designed by American production designer Nelson Coates, the majority of the sets, including the tunnels and underground chambers, were constructed in sound stages on the Paramount Studios lot.
The film premiered at the Deauville Film Festival in September 1997 before opening on 2,271 screens in the US the following month. It earned $13,215,167 in its opening weekend and a total of $60,527,873 in the US, ranking #30 in domestic revenue for the year.
The film received negative reviews and has a "rotten" rating of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Stephen Holden of The New York Times said the film "is cut from the same cloth as The Silence of the Lambs, but the piece of material it uses has the uneven shape and dangling threads of a discarded remnant.... [It] begins promisingly, then loses its direction as the demand for accelerated action overtakes narrative logic." Holden writes of Morgan Freeman that he "projects a kindness, patience and canny intelligence that cut against the movies fast pace and pumped-up shock effects. His performance is so measured it makes you want to believe in the movie much more than its gimmicky jerry-rigged [sic] plot ever permits."
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert said, "David Klass, the screenwriter, gives Freeman and Judd more specific dialogue than is usual in thrillers; they sound as if they might actually be talking with each other and not simply advancing plot points.... [They] are so good, you almost wish theyd decided not to make a thriller at all - had simply found a way to construct a drama exploring their personalities."
Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called the film "a tense, scary, perversely creepy thriller" and added, "David Klass ... blessedly deletes the graphic descriptions of torture and rape included in the novel. Unfortunately, he also neglects to include any explanation of Casanovas behavior. Otherwise Kiss the Girls does what its supposed to do. A solid second film from director Gary Fleder, its sure to set pulses racing and spines tingling." In the same newspaper, Desson Howe felt "The movie ... operates on the crime-movie equivalent of automatic pilot. It takes off, flies and lands without much creative intervention."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Stack thought "the story ... goes on too long. It has too many confusing plot twists and keeps losing energy. Blame it on Hollywood excess, or director Gary Fleders uncertain hand. A cut of 15 minutes would have helped." He was more impressed by the films stars, calling Morgan Freeman "compelling" and "a hero of extraordinary power that comes almost entirely from his unemotional, calculating calm," and stating that Ashley Judd "gives the sometimes plodding drama a dose of intense vitality. This young actress is getting awfully good at turning potentially gelatinous characters into substantive people who spark viewer interest."
Judd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Drama at the 1998 Satellite Awards.
The film was not shown in some theaters in central Virginia at the time of release, due to the unsolved murders of three teenage girls in the area. This decision was out of respect for the families and surrounding communities. The murders were eventually solved and attributed to Richard Evonitz.
Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider are part of the same movie series. James Patterson wrote the story for Kiss the Girls and Alex Cross. Ashley Judd and Richard T Jones appear in Kiss the Girls and Twisted. Morgan Freeman appears in Kiss the Girls and Gone Baby Gone. Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd appear in Kiss the Girls and High Crimes.
Four years after Kiss the Girls, a film adaptation of Along Came a Spider was released. Morgan Freeman reprised his role. Later, the franchise was rebooted with a 2012 adaptation of the novel Cross, titled Alex Cross, starring Tyler Perry in the titular role. A sequel was in the works, planned to be based on the novel Double Cross, but as of October 2014 was canceled.