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Movies
'Along Came a Spider'

'Along Came a Spider' thrills with twists and turns

Friday, April 06, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

The arch criminal in "Along Came a Spider" is motivated not by the crime itself but by the book deal based on it.

 
 
'Along Came A Spider'

RATING: R for violence and language

STARRING: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Penelope Ann Miller, Michael Moriarty

DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori

WEB SITE: www.alongcamea
spidermovie.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

I know a few such criminals myself: They're called novelists. But never mind. This one is a psychopath (Michael Wincott), posing as a counselor at a posh private school, who kidnaps a senator's daughter right from under the nose of her Secret Service agent protector (Monica Potter).

Ransom money? Hmph. Don't insult him. Yes, there's some kind of demand for $10 million in diamonds, but what he really wants is a literary immortality via a relationship with famed police detective-psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), author of the definitive book on criminal profiling.

In a reprise of the character created by James Patterson and played by Freeman in "Kiss the Girls" (1997), Cross is now in sullen retirement after recently losing his partner in the course of a sting operation. Everybody from the kid's parents to the typically tweezed FBI agent in charge is annoyed when the kidnapper contacts Cross -- and nobody else -- to make his demands.

Thus dragged back into service, the retiree reluctantly takes on the assistance of Potter, who is full of remorse for failing to prevent the abduction.

One of the film's most exciting sequences is an elaborate ransom drop that turns out to be a red-herring tangent to the crux of the crime: Wincott's multidimensional character -- homicidal maniac one minute, soft-spoken caretaker of his 10-year-old prey the next, obsessed with the Lindbergh-kidnapping case as a kind of historical model for his own dastardly intentions.

Lee Tamahori's direction is facilitated by the well-constructed twists and turns of Marc Moss' compelling screenplay and, of course, by the performance of Freeman, a low-key pro in the Gary Cooper strong, silent mode -- more Sherlock Holmes than Dirty Harry. His is that rare thing in movies -- a well-educated rather "street-smart" cop -- and he brings his usual classy credibility to the part.

And this is that equally rare thing among crime yarns -- a good thriller highlighted by real character surprises instead of violent, cheap-thrills special effects.



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