Ossus Library Index Thriller Index


Directed by Gary Fleder (1997, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Cary Elwes

A police officer whose niece has been kidnapped teams up with a girl who escaped the kidnapper to bring him to justice.



4 stars

July 28th, 2007 on DVD for the 3rd time  


4 stars

November 26th, 2000 on Video for the 2nd time  

I liked Kiss the Girls, despite its flaws.  I thought the acting was generally good (by the two main leads, at least), and the story was well scripted, even if it lost its "spookiness" after the first half.

The biggest problem lies in one of its red herrings, specifically, the last one, and the acting of Carey Elwes.  The copycat murderer on the west coast was confusing, and even when I understood what was going on, it seemed quite strange.  It was not a total red herring, because the west coast murderer showed up on the east coast again, to tell us (by relating to Casanova) how they orchestrated the entire affair.

As for Cary Elwes, he spooked me out right away.  It was obvious that he was hiding something.  And as far as I'm concerned, he needed more motivation.  The dialog at the beginning is just not enough.  "I watched the girls... then one night I showed them how much they loved me."  So he decided to become a cop in order to facilitate the procedure?  How did he get in contact with the west coast guy, anyway?  There are too many questions left unanswered.

Fortunately, there is a lot of good storytelling, and two very strong lead actors, as well as a pretty good red herring, before those questions even get asked. 

We open the movie with the required scene showing us how good detective Cross is.  He talks down a woman who has a gun in her mouth, after she killed her abusive husband.  Then he arrives home, and finds out that his niece Naomi has disappeared from her college campus.  He flies there, way out of his jurisdiction, and sits in on the investigation of many girls like Naomi, who have also disappeared.  Each one was special, in that they were beautiful, very intelligent, and strong-willed.

The spookiest part takes place when Kate McTiernan is kidnapped from inside her woodland home.  The effect of the atmosphere, the foreshadowing with the fish tank at the bottom of the stairs, and her shock at having her home invaded are wonderfully done.  She wakes up in a cell, and learns she has been healed of her cuts (from the fish tank), drugged, and that the kidnapper obviously plans to break her spirit, and rape her. 

He shows up in a mask, so that nobody knows who he is.  But she fakes illness after eating a sandwich, and as he comes in to administer her drug, she knocks him down (she's a practicing kick boxer) and escapes in a terrified panic.  If she had been thinking straight, she would have locked him in her cell, and freed the other girls as well.  When she is revived in the hospital, she feels extremely guilty for not saving the others.  But she was panicked.  She doesn't remember anything except the wonderful daylight, not even jumping off the cliff into the waterfall to escape the kidnapper. 

The man calls himself Casanova, and has been punishing the women in his group for breaking his rules, especially that they should not cry out.  Several have been found tied to trees, raped, with a lock of their hair cut off.  As punishment, Cross deduces. 

As the search intensifies, Kate brings them to the woods, but they don't find anything useful.  Cross goes to Naomi's school and finds out that a teacher seems to have a habit of getting to know "special students" very well.  Perhaps too well. 

The drug that Kate was put under is traced to a researcher in California, a continent away.  They follow the man to his hideout, and interrupt a murder.  He gets away, but they raid his home, and find pieces of women in a freezer, as well as newspaper articles and photos.  As Kate describes, his house is "too cold".  They had suspected that the murderer was operating on both coasts, but they now realize that there are two of them, working together.  One of the photos on the wall is of Naomi's schoolteacher.  They raid his house and find torture machines, but he explains that he loves to make love to his beautiful students, and they voluntarily enter into S&M rituals with him.  He tempts Cross with a description of his experience with Naomi, which drives the cop over the edge.  It is a nice contrast from the situation at the beginning of the film.  He was blinded to any possibility except that this man was holding his niece.  I do wonder what will become of the lawsuit threat by the teacher, though.  Likely it was a bluff, because his position as professor would undoubtedly come into jeopardy if his affairs became public.

Looking over old maps of the forest, and with Kate's help, they find an abandoned underground residence.  The west coast guy arrives at the same time, and Cross enters, finding all the women tied to chairs, and Naomi playing her cherished violin.  Cross manages to kill the west coast murderer, but Casanova escapes. 

For some reason, the case seems to be over, as the police "are confident that they'll find this guy soon."  That makes everybody happy, and they all feel safe.  There is also a hint of romance between Kate and Cross.  This feels shoehorned in, as if the writers needed a way to make Cross show up at the last minute.  For the rural police officer shows up to check in on Kate, and he begins conversing with her.  If we didn't know he was guilty before, the music lets us know the moment he shows up.  The lingering shots of her passing him a really big knife only accentuate the fact that something's wrong.  Then his conversation becomes obsessive, with him describing how he watched her, sifted through her garbage, and so on.  That was really spooky, and I wished Cross would show up. 

Of course he does, but only after a brief struggle, where Kate actually ends up handcuffing the man to her stove.  I guess she didn't think of the door, because he pulls the gas stove from the wall, and plans to light the gas to kill them all.

This means that Cross cannot shoot the man, because the spark from the gun will ignite the gas.  So he lets the cop talk and tries to talk him down.  The cop must have seen the interrogation earlier in the movie, because he tries to use the same trick: telling Cross how good his niece was in bed.  Cross shoots him, but through a carton of milk, so that there is no spark.  Seems to me that the spark would occur where the hammer hits the bullet, not at the muzzle.  But I know nothing about guns, so I could very well be wrong. 

The first half of the movie was pretty creepy, and made for an effective thriller.  The middle was more of a detective story, and was pretty well done, too.  The ending seemed like an attempt to avoid any of the usual thriller clichés, but in doing so, it made the story a little more complicated than it had to be.  Regardless, I can ignore the flaws, because the storytelling was so good.  The acting was also extremely good, assuming Cary Elwes was playing spooky on purpose.


Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.