Kiss the Girls
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Kiss the Girls is a 1997 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Gary Fleder and starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Cary Elwes. The screenplay by David Klass is based on James Patterson s best-selling 1995 novel of the same name. A sequel titled Along Came a Spider was released in 2001.


Washington, D.C. detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross heads to Durham, North Carolina when his niece Naomi, a college student, is reported missing. He learns from police detective Nick Ruskin that Naomi is the latest in a series of young women who have vanished. Soon after his arrival, one of the missing women is found dead, bound to a tree, and a short time later, Kate McTiernan is kidnapped from her home.

When she awakens from a drugged state, Kate discovers that she is being held by a masked man calling himself Casanova, and she is one of several prisoners trapped in his lair. She manages to escape and is severely injured when she jumps from a cliff into a river. After she recuperates, she joins forces with Cross to track down her captor, whom Cross concludes is a collector, not a killer, unless his victims fail to follow his rules. This means there is time to rescue the other imprisoned women, as long as they remain obedient.

Clues lead them to Los Angeles, where a series of gruesome kidnappings and murders have been credited to Dr. William Rudolph, known as the Gentleman Caller. Cross s efforts to capture and question Rudolph are foiled when Rudolph escapes. In North Carolina, Cross traces Casanova up the river. Alerted by a gunshot, he discovers Casanova s underground hideout. Rudolph is revealed to be Casanova s partner. Casanova escapes, while Rudolph is shot by Cross. Cross rescues the kidnapped women, including Naomi.

Later, Kate invites Cross to dinner at her house. Ruskin drops by Kate s house and sends home the two officers guarding her. While Cross is at home preparing to meet Kate for dinner, he discovers that Ruskin s signature on the arrest warrants matches Casanova s handwriting. Cross tries calling Kate to inform her, but Ruskin has already disconnected her phone line. Kate becomes suspicious of Ruskin while conversing with him. He then drops his accent, revealing he is Casanova. After a fight and attempted rape, Kate manages to handcuff him to the oven. Ruskin slashes Kate s arm with a kitchen knife. In attempting to free himself, Ruskin pulls the oven away from the wall, rupturing the gas pipe. Ruskin takes out a lighter, threatening to cause an explosion due to the leaking gas. Cross shows up and tries to discourage Ruskin. When this fails, Cross shoots Ruskin, firing through a milk carton to avoid igniting the gas. Cross comforts Kate as the police arrive.


  • Morgan Freeman as Dr. / Detective Alex Cross
  • Ashley Judd as Dr. Kate McTiernan
  • Cary Elwes as Detective Nick Ruskin
  • Alex McArthur as Detective Davey Sikes
  • Bill Nunn as Detective John Sampson
  • Jeremy Piven as Detective Henry Castillo
  • Brian Cox as Chief Hatfield
  • Jay O. Sanders as FBI Agent Kyle Craig
  • Tony Goldwyn as Dr. William Rudolph
  • William Converse-Roberts as Dr. Wick Sachs
  • Roma Maffia as Dr. Ruocco
  • Richard T. Jones as Seth Samuel
  • Gina Ravera as Naomi Cross
  • Heidi Schanz as Megan Murphy
  • Tatyana Ali as Janelle Cross
  • Mena Suvari as Coty Pierce
  • Anna Maria Horsford as Vickie Cross
  • Helen Martin as Nana Maybellene Cross



Principal photography began on April 16, 1996. The film shot two weeks on location in North Carolina on the streets of Durham, in nearby county parks, and outside a Chapel Hill, North Carolina residence. The police station was constructed in a downtown Durham warehouse. The majority of filming occurred in the Los Angeles area, with locations including the Disney Ranch, The Athenaeum at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, a house in the Adams historic district of Los Angeles, and on the campus of the University of Southern California in University Park. Designed by American production designer Nelson Coates, the majority of the sets, including the tunnels and underground chambers, were constructed in sound stages on the Paramount Studios lot. Filming was completed on July 10, 1996.


The film premiered at the Deauville Film Festival in September 1997 before opening on 2,271 screens in the US the following month. It earned $13,215,167 in its opening weekend and a total of $60,527,873 in the US, ranking #30 in domestic revenue for the year.

The film was not shown in some theaters in central Virginia at the time of release, due to the unsolved murders of three teenage girls in the area. This decision was out of respect for the families and surrounding communities. The murders were eventually solved and attributed to Richard Evonitz.


Critical reception

The film received negative reviews and has a Rotten rating of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes from 33 reviews with the consensus: Detective Alex Cross makes his inauspicious cinematic debut in Kiss the Girls, a clunky thriller that offers few surprises.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times said the film is cut from the same cloth as The Silence of the Lambs, but the piece of material it uses has the uneven shape and dangling threads of a discarded remnant…. begins promisingly, then loses its direction as the demand for accelerated action overtakes narrative logic. Holden writes of Morgan Freeman that he projects a kindness, patience and canny intelligence that cut against the movie s fast pace and pumped-up shock effects. His performance is so measured it makes you want to believe in the movie much more than its gimmicky jerry-rigged plot ever permits.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars and said, David Klass, the screenwriter, gives Freeman and Judd more specific dialogue than is usual in thrillers; they sound as if they might actually be talking with each other and not simply advancing plot points…. are so good, you almost wish they d decided not to make a thriller at all – had simply found a way to construct a drama exploring their personalities.

Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called the film a tense, scary, perversely creepy thriller and added, David Klass … blessedly deletes the graphic descriptions of torture and rape included in the novel. Unfortunately, he also neglects to include any explanation of Casanova s behavior. Otherwise Kiss the Girls does what it s supposed to do. A solid second film from director Gary Fleder, it s sure to set pulses racing and spines tingling. In the same newspaper, Desson Howe felt The movie … operates on the crime-movie equivalent of automatic pilot. It takes off, flies and lands without much creative intervention.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Stack thought the story … goes on too long. It has too many confusing plot twists and keeps losing energy. Blame it on Hollywood excess, or director Gary Fleder s uncertain hand. A cut of 15 minutes would have helped. He was more impressed by the film s stars, calling Morgan Freeman compelling and a hero of extraordinary power that comes almost entirely from his unemotional, calculating calm, and stating that Ashley Judd gives the sometimes plodding drama a dose of intense vitality. This young actress is getting awfully good at turning potentially gelatinous characters into substantive people who spark viewer interest.

Awards and nominations

Judd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Drama at the 1998 Satellite Awards.

Sequel and reboot

Four years after Kiss the Girls, a film adaptation of Along Came a Spider was released. Morgan Freeman reprised his role. Later, the franchise was rebooted with a 2012 adaptation of the novel Cross, titled Alex Cross, starring Tyler Perry in the titular role.

Year 1997
ReleaseDate 1997-10-03
RuntimeMins 115
RuntimeStr 1h 55min
Plot Police hunting for a serial kidnapper are helped when a victim manages to escape for the first time.
Awards Awards, 5 nominations
Directors Gary Fleder
Writers James Patterson, David Klass
Stars Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes
Produced by David Brown,C.O. Erickson,Joe Wizan,Steve Wizan
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography by Aaron Schneider
Film Editing by Armen Minasian,Harvey Rosenstock,William Steinkamp
Casting By Deborah Aquila,Jane Shannon-Smith
Production Design by Nelson Coates
Art Direction by Joseph A. Hodges
Set Decoration by Linda Lee Sutton
Costume Design by Abigail Murray
Makeup Department Deena Adair,Jeffrey Hamilton,Michael Hancock,Dugg Kirkpatrick,Leonard MacDonald,Frances Mathias,Ben Nye III,Ashlee Petersen,Dave Snyder,Christopher Allen Nelson,Sandra S. Orsolyak,Cristina Patterson,Elizabeth Rabe
Production Management C.O. Erickson
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Trey Batchelor,Nancy Blewer,Rick Bota,Michael Alan Kahn,Daniel Orozco,Chuck Picerni Jr.,David K. Riebel,Michael Zimbrich,David W. Rose
Art Department Hawley Anderson,Peter Battistelli,Rick Bioni,Brian Bird,Rick Chinelli,Geoff Cormier,Alex Ferguson,Barry Franenberg,Casey B. Garrett,Lisa Goldsmith,Hugh Hanna,Tracy Morris Johnson,James LaBarge,Randlett King Lawrence,David B. Long,Paul Penley,R.A. Tony Poland,Burton Rencher,Anthony Samuel Saso, Polar Bear Shaw,R. Lucas Stewart,Eric Troop,Chris Vail,Jason Wolf,Douglas Womack,Ralph Woollaston,Mark Lambert Bristol,Jeff Brown,Frank M. Fleming,James Harper,Phillip A. Henry,Brian Kontz,P.K. MacCarthy,Timothy O Brien,Roger Scruggs,Gerald Sullivan
Sound Department Gary Alexander,Nicholas R. Allen,Rick Ash,Bob Baron,David Bartlett,Michael J. Benavente,Pamela Bentkowski,Jeff Clark,David B. Cohn,Scott Curtis,Ken Dufva,John Dunn,Tammy Fearing,David Lee Fein,Darrell Hanzalik,Robin Harlan,Spike Allison Hooper,Susan Kurtz,Sarah Monat,Paul O Bryan,Lee Orloff,Thomas A. Payne,Randy Singer,Renee Tondelli,Bill Ward,David Williams,Kerry Dean Williams,Zack Davis,Jessica B. Schultz
Special Effects by Jackie Caydam,Joe Colwell,David Dupuis,Janet Evaschuck,Taishiro Kiya,Leon Laderach,Paul Oberst,John Peyser,Michael Schorr,Grant Smith,Sean Taylor,Matt Ullman,Claude Bouchard,Sam Greenmun,Josh Hayes,Jeffrey L. Loy
Visual Effects by Tom Mahoney
Stunts Rick Avery,Sandy Berumen,Jophery C. Brown,Tony Donno,Tabby Hanson,Norman Howell,Cliff McLaughlin,Chuck Picerni Jr.,Rick Picerni,Jimmy N. Roberts,Erik Rondell,Jennifer Watson-Johnston,David Lea,Victor Paul
Camera and Electrical Department Patric J. Abaravich,Rick Bota,David Boyd,Bill Brummond,Dwight Campbell,Andrew Casey,R. Adam Chambers,Daniel Galiardi,Joseph E. Gallagher,Alec Hirschfeld,Marc Hirschfeld,Scott Johnson,Walter T.J. Johnson,Richard Kuhn,John Lazear,Michael Lyon,Rexford L. Metz,Bob Myers,Ben Noble,David Noble,Simone Perusse,Terry Pfrang,Keith Pickett,Steve Powers,Tom Ryan,Darrell B. Sheldon,Tim Sheridan,Scott Toland,Mark Volpe,Kevin Wadowski,Bo Webb,Dietmar Wendelin,Kimberly Wright,Sumi Yang,Harry Zimmerman,Erik A. Erichsen,Geoff Gann,Ben D. Griffith Jr.,Ron Kunecke,Christopher J. Lama,Kelly Rubottom,Eric Sagot,Michael Starkey,R. Michael Stringer,Michael Tolochko
Casting Department Barbara Harris,Dayna Polehanki,Alex Wald,Mercedes Kelso
Costume and Wardrobe Department Paul Lopez,Alan Martin,Jennifer Day Young,Valerie Zielonka,Mindy Gantt Bass,Lois DeArmond,Alice Powell
Editorial Department Christopher S. Capp,Tony Ciccone,Phil Hetos,Armen Minasian,Joe Mosca,Theresa Repola Mohammed,Debra L. Tennant,Michael Healey
Location Management Vick Griffin,James McCabe,Gary DeGalla,Kate Miller,David Thornsberry
Music Department Peter Afterman,Dick Bernstein,Larry Blank,Carter Burwell,Thomas A. Carlson,Sandy DeCrescent,Janice Hayen,Stephen Krause,Ken Kugler,Cindy O Connor,Michael K. Bauer,Carter Burwell,Frank Macchia,Elizabeth Wendel
Script and Continuity Department Judi Bell,Elizabeth Ludwick-Bax,Marc Moss
Transportation Department Howard Brady Davidson,Gary Paulsen,Linda Pickett,J. Armin Garza II,Robert Gaskill,Mike Phillips,Theresa M. Roehner,Charlie Wright
Additional Crew Carmen Avila,Ray Blanchard,Steven M. Boyd,Leigh Bragassa,Caroline Case,Robert Colicci,David Curtis,Park Dietz,Reva Grantham,Corey Gray,Patrick Guzzo,Cindy Hochman,Derek Hurd,Kevin Jackson,Michael G. Jefferson,Susan Gail Kass,Erin Kaufman,Kyle Kaufman,Rick Kelly,Kelly King,Jennifer Kunishima,David Lea,Robert A. Levine,Trina Mitchum,Denise Mora,Judd Nissen,Eileen A. O Donnell,Lou Phillips,Quentin Pierre,Keith Popely,John Rash,Brian Regalot,David M. Rodriguez,Steve Aaron Schultz,Jonathan Silver,Michael D. Starks,Brad Sykes,Gian Temperilli,Michael Triandafils,Diane Ward,Burton L. Warner,Doris Wood,Kurt Zelnak,Gina Aponte,Michael Barnes,Ned Haspel,Jack E. Herman,Mark Walbaum,Leon Watkins
Genres Crime, Drama, Mystery
Companies Paramount Pictures, Rysher Entertainment
Countries USA
Languages English, Mandarin
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 6.6
ImDbRatingVotes 74180
MetacriticRating 46
Keywords detective,kidnapping,escape,serial killer,tied to a tree