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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.98%
Worth A Look: 2.33%
Average: 20.93%
Pretty Bad43.02%
Total Crap: 26.74%

6 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Along Came a Spider
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Rent it for the prologue, then turn it off."
2 stars

Great filmmaking is sometimes found in the unlikeliest places. I would like to refer you to the first five minutes of the otherwise dull-as-dishwater "Along Came a Spider," five minutes that play like a brilliant short film. True, this prelude (which has little to do with the rest of the film) derives from a time-tested cliché -- a cop's traumatic loss of his partner, setting him up to be hesitantly pulled back into action later -- but we have to recognize skill where we find it.

The cop in question is forensic psychologist Dr. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), who's trying to nab a serial killer; his partner (Jill Teed, who makes the most of her few minutes) is a decoy in Cross's sting operation, riding in a car with the suspect. The plan goes spectacularly bad, and director Lee Tamahori stages everything -- the dread that develops when the partner's cover is blown; the resulting unplanned bit of violence leading to a cataclsymic accident -- with a sadist's eye for detail. I am something of a connoisseur of scenes featuring characters who realize they're about to die -- it's a test of any actor (will they overplay it? underplay?) -- and Jill Teed does it as well as I've seen it done. The set-up, the violent climax, the bleak ending -- this prelude is almost a terrific noir film in miniature.

I've gone on so long about the opening of Along Came a Spider because the remainder of the film offers little to talk about. Even if I were inclined to deal with the plot at length, this is one of those thrillers -- the kind that you can't review without contorting yourself into pretzels to avoid spoiling the "surprises." After eight months of mourning his partner, Cross is drawn back into the game when a remote evil genius (Michael Wincott) kidnaps a senator's little daughter. Joining Cross on the case is Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), who had been assigned to protect the girl and now feels bad about it. Many cat-and-mouse games follow, accompanied by many scenes of the usually fun-to-watch Michael Wincott growling into a phone being all diabolical and ingenious. Is there some school where movie evil geniuses learn all their neat tricks?

Name three other movie series wherein a 63-year-old African-American gets to play a recurring hero. There are no others; Morgan Freeman has the only one -- Alex Cross previously headlined 1997's Kiss the Girls, based, like the present film, on a novel by James Patterson. I don't begrudge Freeman his own hero-man franchise -- hey, bring on the Alex Cross action figure if you want to -- but I do wish the movies worked harder to be worthy of their central star. Freeman, a co-producer on Along Came a Spider, looks mildly bored in it; he scarcely smiles (hell, even the grim-as-a-rainy-funeral Seven gave him a fine hearty laughing scene). Maybe he's as uninspired by his co-star Monica Potter, with whom he trades most of his lines, as I was; Potter, very obviously being groomed as Julia Roberts Jr., is almost perfectly bland until her final scenes, when she tries too late to be interesting.

Remember a paragraph ago, when I said "Many cat-and-mouse games follow"? There's your review; that's Along Came a Spider in a nutshell. My code of honor as a reviewer prevents me from spoiling the plot twists that aren't worth preserving in the first place (and the plot, upon later deconstruction, makes no sense whatsoever). Oh, well. At least we have those first five minutes -- encouraging evidence that the director, Lee Tamahori, isn't completely dead yet. Tamahori had, with 1994's Once Were Warriors, one of the strongest and most original debuts in recent memory; his films thereafter (Mulholland Falls, The Edge, and the final 99 minutes of this film) have eluded recent memory.

Tamahori's handling of violence, though, is as vital and painful as ever. What he needs, like all directors, is a script that actually means something.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 12:20:42
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell it sucks read the book instead 1 stars
10/21/12 Jeff Wilder Freeman's good as always. But the movie blows. 1 stars
7/26/09 the dork knight Single worst fucking movie I have ever seen. Saw the twist coming a mile away!! 1 stars
10/05/08 Lenny Zane Both Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter CAN be darned good. What a shame about theis drivel! 1 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
11/21/07 G. Webster another case of horrible screenwriting from a good book 3 stars
11/11/07 Jack Sommersby Simply dreadful stuff. 1 stars
7/01/07 johnnyfog If this isn't SHIT, then NOTHING is. 1 stars
5/15/07 Rob I still remember groaning in the theatre when Potter is revealed as the Bad Guy.. Horrible! 1 stars
1/31/07 Albert Stone The plot is riduclous, but the acting was good. CGI car crash was rubbish. 3 stars
6/11/06 Chris A decent movie although the book was better 3 stars
8/12/05 ES I know let's put a really crappy CGI car crash within the first five minutes of the film! 1 stars
8/09/05 seeda It's cool 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Not that bad 3 stars
2/27/05 Dr. Lecter a bunch of well-made, polished cliches 3 stars
5/25/04 Jenny The book would have made a much better movie. 1 stars
11/22/03 R.W. Welch A few good scenes but has sort of a mish-mash quality and Potter is miscast. 3 stars
11/08/03 The Velcro Warlock I liked Monica Potter, until this apparently ended her career. 1 stars
7/23/03 francis plot twists are standard now - no excitement left. Potter is leaden. 3 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Along came a . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . Ehem. . .WHA??? 2 stars
3/20/03 Wendy Jane Torrance Couldn't HEAD OVER HEELS have shown ANYBODY what Monica Potter was born to play? 1 stars
7/24/02 dzk AWESOME ! Wonderful ending ! Monica Potter is the best actress of our era ! Cheers !! 5 stars
7/08/02 Film Dude Ugh. It's sad seeing Morgan Freeman in this state. 2 stars
6/05/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi welllll.....the twist was surprising, but othawise......pppppfffffff 1 stars
5/24/02 Charles Tatum Freeman good, Potter needs to quit acting 2 stars
5/14/02 Danielle Ophelia Morgan Freeman slumming is a terrible thing to watch. Also, Monica Potter is a choad. 2 stars
3/29/02 Frank E. Loved it. Take us back to the 70's! for today's crowd (duh) That is new! 5 stars
2/24/02 Chris K. Tries to be like a Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci Italian giallo, but it just doesn't cut it. 3 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Freeman was great but he couldn't save this film. 2 stars
1/25/02 Wendy Jane Torrance Couldn't HEAD OVER HEELS have shown ANYBODY what Monica Potter was born to play? 1 stars
12/25/01 Leslie Suranyi Jr. Freeman does his best despite being mired in a hopeless plot. Don't watch this movie. 1 stars
12/07/01 Phil M. Afficianado Unbelievable, literally. Only because of Freeman is it watchable. Potter doesn't cut it.i 3 stars
11/25/01 Senor Pescolido Very very weak. Is it wrong to challenge an audience, instead of playing down to it? 1 stars
10/27/01 Monday Morning Morgan is good. Also wouldn't mind seeing Monica Potter nekkid; she sure can't act. 3 stars
9/28/01 Karabella This movie was so kickass! I would see it over and over again 5 stars
8/16/01 Belinda Morgan Freeman what were you thinking? This and Nurse Betty were shockers! 2 stars
8/10/01 kris Average 3 stars
6/18/01 Mary Morgan Freeman too good an actor to be so clueless in this film! 2 stars
6/07/01 Peter Brook doh. 2 stars
5/25/01 Matthew Bartley Whats the point of having a twist exactly the same as the first film? 2 stars
5/17/01 Layna I thought it was AWESOME!!! 5 stars
5/16/01 Rampage Freeman was good, this movie was total bullshit 2 stars
5/14/01 Thai Nguyen Nice twist 4 stars
5/13/01 Gary i actually had a good time 4 stars
5/02/01 BrainPan Want to see a good Morgan Freeman detective movie with lots of rain? Try SE7EN. 2 stars
4/29/01 bullit17 If you really want to enjoy "Along Came..." spend yout $8 on the book instead of the movie. 3 stars
4/26/01 Hobius The purest crap ever. 1 stars
4/23/01 jusDucky Freeman is so good, but Potter futher weakened the show. 2 stars
4/18/01 Ajay I'm too busy eyeing the door to care about the "surprise" ending. 1 stars
4/15/01 Roy Smith It's not a twist if you see the ending coming for 20 minutes away. 2 stars
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  06-Apr-2001 (R)


  16-Aug-2001 (M)

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