New Films: Kiss the Girls (18)

Director: Gary Fleder Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn

The serial-killer movie has been part of the cinematic landscape for so long now that it's hard not to feel a faint sense of comfort when faced with another deranged psychopath who makes household ornaments from his victims' extremities. He's just another archetype now, as much a part of our extended fictional family as the hooker with a heart. This may account for the complete absence of suspense in Kiss The Girls, or it may just be that the conventions which the film relies upon are so familiar that they negate tension. Certainly, the film makers haven't bothered to add anything original to the pile of stolen ideas which they have assembled, looting everything from Seven to Nighthawks, The Silence of the Lambs to No Way to Treat a Lady.

Even Morgan Freeman seems to be parodying himself as the forensic psychologist who joins the hunt for the serial killer who has abducted his niece. Assisting him is the kick-boxing surgeon, Ashley Judd, freshly escaped from the killer's clutches and ready to use her first hand experience to trap him.

The most disappointing thing about Kiss The Girls is that such empirical knowledge doesn't even figure in the final analysis. When the police are close to nailing their man, they find that he has helpfully pasted the walls of his apartment with newspaper clippings detailing his crimes - how charitable that the criminally insane should incorporate the needs of a desperate director into their idea of interior decoration. And when the identity of the murderer is finally revealed, it turns out to be completely arbitrary, as though the screenwriter had stuck a pin in the list of supporting characters in order to contrive an unexpected outcome.

Even those who do not take offence at such incoherence will surely be rattled by the picture's near misogynistic exploitation of its defenceless victims.

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