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Film review: Kiss the Girls

Hasn't the serial killer thriller just about played out by now?

We can thank "The Silence of the Lambs" for the proliferation of such films — and for legitimizing a sub-genre.

But until something comes along to shake up the genre in the story department, we'll continue to get tired, recycled B-movie scripts that somehow attract A-list stars.

"Kiss the Girls" is no exception, save for a pair of exceptional performances by Morgan Freeman, as a forensic detective, and Ashley Judd as a medical intern (and kickboxer!).

Freeman is a dispassionate, studied doctor-policeman who heads for a college campus in North Carolina when his niece disappears. She is one of several attractive young co-eds — each with some special talent — who have disappeared in recent weeks, so Freeman offers his special talent to local police.

The cops get a break when Judd is kidnapped and manages to escape. She provides some much-needed clues, such as the fact that the other young women who have been abducted — including Freeman's niece — are still alive, held captive in some kind of dungeon out in the woods. "He's a collector," Freeman explains.

Judd is unable to offer the precise location of this dungeon, however, as she was given a disorienting drug before (improbably) leaping from a steep cliff to the safety of a raging river! (In a lazy screenwriting device, she also has no family or friends.)

We frequently see the kidnapper's interaction with the young women, though he distorts his voice and wears a mask (not unlike Michael Myers' in the "Halloween" films). And the first half of the film is overly familiar, packed with a few too many silly little plot quirks.

Still, it's fairly effective and doesn't really begin to unravel until after the halfway mark. But by the end, it has completely fallen apart, with a climactic revelation that is merely a worn-out cliche.

There is a lesson here, however, about what good actors can do with mediocre material. If it weren't for Freeman and Judd's convincing performances, this one would fall apart a lot sooner.

"Kiss the Girls" is rated R for violence, profanity, vulgarity and an attempted-rape scene.