In this first screen appearance of writer James Patterson's forensic psychologist Alex Cross (played here by Morgan Freeman), there's been a number of attractive young women disappearing in Durham, North Carolina. Some of them have been found dead, tied to trees in the woods, but others remain missing with no traces. While working in Washington DC, Alex Cross travels to Durham and gets involved with this case after news that his niece Naomi (Gina Ravera) has joined the list of missing girls there. He's told by the local authorities to "make yourself at home, but don't mess around in the kitchen." Despite the personal involvement, Cross takes a straightforward no-nonsense approach to locating those missing and bringing whoever is responsible to justice, working alongside the local police. We learn (before the authorities do) that this is the work of a man calling himself "Casanova", who has been stalking young women for several years as shown in a rather memorable prologue. He now wears a mask right out of "Phantom of the Opera" and is keeping these women locked in prison cells deep in a hidden lair. He's been drugging them (which he calls a "kiss", hence the title) and basically forcing them to let him have his way with them, and the ones who have tried to fight back have been the ones found outside dead.
Interning doctor Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd) enters the picture when "Casanova" abducts her from her house and makes her his latest prisoner. Although what happens next is a bit of a spoiler, all of the movie's trailers gave this away as a main part of the story and it explains her involvement in the rest of the film, so I'll go ahead and say that she ends up escaping- the first to get away alive. Naturally Cross and company are anxious to hear any details from her about the perpetrator, though she can't clearly remember where his dungeon was. She insists on joining their investigation to retrace her steps and find out the who, where and why behind all of this to free the other prisoners before any more end up dead.
I hadn't seen Kiss the Girls since its theatrical run in 1997, and while much of it played as a by-the-numbers thriller the situation was also one of the more disturbing I'd seen in movies of that time. "Torture porn" films that came later like the Saw series make this seem rather tame by comparison, but it still holds up for the most part. Freeman and Judd are the main elements that make the movie work, as Cross investigates the gruesome crimes leaving his emotions aside and McTiernan refusing to remain a silent victim. How it all ends is a bit of a surprise, and re-watching the movie knowing that gives you another angle to view it at although much of it seems a bit improbable. Morgan Freeman returned as Alex Cross in 2001's Along Came a Spider (which also has quite a twist in its story), and later Tyler Perry became the title character in 2012's Alex Cross.
Having projected this movie on 35mm during its theatrical run, I remember it being a bit difficult to focus as the picture was intentionally not very sharp, and also having quite a bit of film grain which contributed well to the overall atmosphere. This Blu-Ray release replicates that look perfectly, and with so many current productions being shot with digital equipment it was a relief to see honest-to-goodness anamorphic FILM back on my screen (I usually feel this way after a large viewing diet of digital material). Thankfully there isn't any apparent digital meddling with the transfer; even bits of dust have remained without any clean-up which I actually prefer when that shows up on the negative (as opposed to a badly-treated print.) The dual-layer disc also provides plenty of room with no banding or compression artifacts. Kiss the Girls was one of Paramount's very first standard DVD releases, which I picked up a while ago although I'd never had the time to watch that all the way through. That was on a single-layer disc and looks absolutely primitive compared to this Blu-ray, filled with compression artifacts.Sound:
The 5.1 audio mix is very atmospheric, without many strong surround effects yet the rear channels remain active with ambient sound almost constantly throughout. It's presented here in DTS Master Audio.
Almost making up for the complete lack of any extras whatsoever on this disc (the DVD had the theatrical trailer) is the huge number of foreign languages, which once again Warner only lists a handful of on the back cover. We get German, Castilian Spanish, French, and Italian dubs in Dolby Digital 5.1, with Latin Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese in 2-channel matrixed surround. Subtitles include all of these and both standard and hearing-impaired format English subs, as well as Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Hindi, Croatian, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, Serbian, Finnish, Swedish, Thai and Turkish! I'd heard this disc has actually been available for a while in other countries which explains the broad language support.
Kiss the Girls may not have broken much new ground, but it's certainly well-executed with Morgan Freeman's performance keeping the audience sane during the rather insane predicament the story's victims are in. It was certainly entertaining to see it again, although subsequent viewings with the ending clearly in mind call for some nit-picking. Not having been issued since its early DVD appearance, this Blu-Ray disc provides an excellent high-definition presentation of the movie that is definitely worth the upgrade for the movie's fans.