A.J.'s Rating: 3 Stars but it's no Dirty Harry
Along Came a Spider
Directed By:  Lee Tomahori
Written By:  James Patterson, Marc Moss
Starring:  Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Mika Boorem,
Penelope Ann Miller, Michael Moriarty, Dylan Baker, Anton Yelchin
Rated:  R  (Violence / Language)
Running Time:  104 Min.
    Along Came A Spider stars Morgan Freeman, who reprises his role as detective and author Alex Cross from Kiss the Girls.  However, this film stands on it's own just fine, since it's not really a sequel to that movie.
    I'm going to begin with the one thing I did not like about this film.  Early on, there is a scene which features a car wreck, and the visual effects used to show it were incredible.  What was incredible was how bad they were.  This is the same wreck featured in the trailer for the film, and it looks even worse in the actual movie.  You know the scene, don't you?  It's the one with the CGI HotWheels car.  There were plenty of other ways to effectively present this scene without resorting to computer-generated images that don't work.  In fact, all the audience really needed to see was the wreck's aftermath, since that's all the characters in the film saw.  In addition, having the audience only hear that there had been a wreck, as Freeman's character did, would have not only heightened the drama, but would also have drawn viewers into the story instead of removing them from it.  There is nothing worse than a bad visual effect to make me remember that, oh yeah, this is just a movie.  Anyway, since the movie gets that scene out of the way in it's first few minutes, I thought I would get my rant about it out of the way as soon as possible in this review.
    From my opinion of that opening scene, you may think I would be inclined to trash the rest of this film as well, but I'm not. Along Came a Spider is actually a very solid crime thriller.  It's solid because it borrows heavily from films like Dirty Harry.  Oops, I just said I wouldn't continue to trash this film; my bad.  The story revolves around a high profile kidnapping, and a Federal investigation that Detective Cross has been thrown into the middle of by the kidnapper.  Cross is the outsider, and he must attempt to find the bad guy, as well as figure out why the kidnapper chose him to be involved in the case.
    Tamahori's direction is good, except for that first scene of course, and his style accentuates the tension in scenes without overshadowing the performances of the actors.  I'm certain that another Tamahori directed crime thriller will come along soon after Along Came a Spider.
    On the acting front, Morgan Freeman was, as always, absolutely fantastic.  Also, Monica Potter, who plays Agent Jezzie Flannigan, turns in a surprisingly strong performance.  Monica Potter is an actress to keep your eye on. 
    As for storytelling, the portions of the plotline not lifted from Dirty Harry are quite original, and the dialogue is well written.  Also, the movie always kept me guessing, as any finely crafted mystery should.  If there's anything I hate more than bad visual effects, it's predictability.  Along Came a Spider scores points in that regard.
    So, if you can forget the first few minutes of this film, you'll see an intelligent, well-written thriller with good acting and some entertaining plot twists.  Not too shabby!

Review published
April 28, 2001
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