Plot: A young girl has been kidnapped and since she happens to be the daughter of a congressman, this sparks a massive investigation. She was taken from a private, seemingly secure school while she was under Secret Service watch, so clearly whoever is responsible is no amateur criminal. But the kidnapper doesn’t seem interested in a ransom or at least not a traditional one, so lead investigator Agent McArthur (Dylan Baker) and his colleagues are at a loss. The kidnapper even asks for Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) to be involved in the case, which raises McArthur’s hackles, but he agrees to let Cross participate after the girl’s parents insist. Soon Cross is working closely with Jezzie (Monica Potter), the Secret Service agent assigned to the school and the likely target for blame to come down on. But what drove the kidnapper to these extremes and can Cross solve the case in time?
Entertainment Value: I had fun with Kiss the Girls, the previous movie based on the books about Alex Cross, so I hoped Along Came a Spider would continue that trend and deliver a competent thriller. But while it has some solid elements, overall this is a messy and inconsistent experience. The main issue is that a narrative like this thrives with a good villain and sadly, Along Came a Spider doesn’t have one. The potential is there, but odd shifts happen that make it impossible to take the villain seriously and that impacts the tension and suspense. One minute we’re told he is a calculated, ice cold menace, then the next his actions suggest the total opposite of that. So without a strong villain, the movie leans on twists and dead ends, which works to an extent, but not enough to make up for the lesser elements. I just think a more consistent script could have worked wonders, as there is some good potential here, but it never manifests and the movie suffers as a result.
As I said above, I feel like the villain can make or break a thriller like this one and in this case, it breaks it. Michael Wincott turns in a solid performance, but he is given lackluster material to work with and by turn, he struggles in the role. But you can’t fault Wincott, as this kind of inconsistent approach makes it tough for him to build within the character and that limits his chances to shine. Morgan Freeman puts in his usual rock solid turn here, but again, the material gives him little to do. He is still quite good here, but is unable to do much more than a basic performance, though in Freeman’s case, even that is impressive work. Monica Potter is likely the most memorable part of the cast, as she has some fun moments to shine in and she makes good use of them. If more focus was on her, perhaps the movie would have improved a little. The rest of the cast is solid as well, with Anton Yelchin, Dylan Baker, and Penelope Ann Miller on deck. This is by no means one of the worst suspense thrillers out there, but given the cast and potential involved, it is a big miss.