Along Came a Spider (2001)




(director: Lee Tamahori; screenwriters: based on the novel by James Patterson/Marc Moss; cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti; editor: Neil Travis; cast: Morgan Freeman (Alex Cross), Monica Potter (Agent Jezzie Flannigan), Michael Wincott (Gary Soneji), Penelope Ann Miller (Lauren Rose), Michael Moriarty (Senator Hank Rose), Mika Boorem (Megan Rose), Anna Maria Horsford (Vickie Cross), Dylan Baker (McArthur), Billy Burke (Agent Devine); Runtime: 115; Paramount Pictures; 2001)


“There are just too many holes in the plotline of this hollow thriller for it to be convincing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is a Swiss cheese psycho/mystery genre film. There are just too many holes in the plotline of this hollow thriller for it to be convincing. The film is most successful in hiding its plot twists and its surprise ending but, in going for that and that alone, the film lost track of how unbelievable the story was becoming and how shallow all the characters were– except for the Morgan Freeman character.

Morgan Freeman played the same role in the 1997 Kiss the Girls, and that mediocre film brought in lots of dough ($60 million). So the producers must have thought, why not try and cash in on another mediocre thriller! The low-key actor who breathes an air of restraint and nobility into his roles as he carefully measures certain words, returns as Dr. Alex Cross. Unfortunately, Freeman can’t carry this film on his back, though he almost does. He’s so good an actor that he’s usually better than the script he’s given, as is the case here.

Cross is a damaged D.C. cop, a forensic psychologist, author of a definitive book on criminal profiling, who several months ago failed his partner in a busted sting operation and watched her die, to his dismay. He’s now in semi-retirement or on sick leave, or just moping at home, busy with his hobby of building model boats. His wife Vickie (Anna Maria Horsford) says: “I have never seen a man work so hard at being busy.” Which is the clue for the clever psycho, Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), to call him. He has been posing as a teacher for two years in an elite private school in Washington, D.C. that has Secret Service agents as security for the prominent students that attend, which include the son of the Russian president. Soneji just kidnapped Senator Rose’s 12-year-old daughter Megan (Mika Boorem) and strangled to death a teacher from the school, before making his escape to his high-tech houseboat. He has made the FBI most-wanted list, but wants further newspaper headlines and recognition from Cross at how marvelous he is. His intention is to make this kidnapping as big as the Lindbergh case.

Uptight FBI Agent McArthur (Baker) is in charge of the investigation and reluctantly teams the failed Secret Service agent in charge of the security operation, Jezzie Flannigan (Potter), with Cross, who claims she could be valuable because she knows the psycho from her two years on the job.

The fun might be in making a list of all the holes in the story, and whoever comes up with the first hundred wins a prize. The list might start with why a school so worried about security would fail to fingerprint the teacher. Secondly, why one of the many agents there wouldn’t recognize that the phony teacher is wearing a latex mask when it is so obvious; and, thirdly, why the school or the Secret Service don’t even check for his teaching credentials, which any school in the country has an obligation to do. Once you get the error list rolling, you’ll see how ludicrous this film is. I quickly counted thirty such flubs before I got weary and decided to give up my count.