Directed by Lee Tamahori, starring Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Penelope Ann Miller and Michael Moriarty.

In 1995 movie fans were treated to what is widely acknowledged as one of the finest films of recent years. David Fincher's 'Se7en' had everything one could wish for in a serial killer flick: intelligence, stylish visuals and an unforgettably grisly finale. Yardsticks, however, are invariably followed by duds. And boy, has there been a fair share of "suspense thriller" duds since. 'Kiss The Girls', 'The Bone Collector', 'The Watcher', the list goes on. Now, it's about to be added to.

'Along Came A Spider' sees Morgan Freeman reprise the role of psychologist policeman Alex Cross, the character he first played in 1997's aforementioned 'Kiss The Girls'. While not strictly a serial killer flick, 'Along Came A Spider' is unfortunately more of the same, as the who-done-it-and-why scenario takes another savage beating.

Following the death of his partner in a sting that goes horribly wrong, Alex Cross has swapped brain games for board games and has withdrawn from active duty. Retirement is short-lived however, as cunning kidnapper Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott) lures Cross into his plan to commit a crime worthy of the one of the psychologist's literary profiles. And so our hero teams up with Secret Service Agent Jezzie Flanagan (Monica Potter) in a race against time to blah, blah, blah…

With a plot as thin as Ally McBeal, 'Along Came A Spider' needed to be wonderfully stylish to gain any kudos. Five minutes in however it becomes abundantly clear that style is not on the meal ticket. The opening car crash sequence is so unrealistic it beggars belief that this is the same director (Tamahori) who gave us the powerful and visceral 'Once Were Warriors' in 1995. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

On the acting front, the ever-reliable Morgan Freeman takes the honours with considerable ease. This is not surprising, considering Monica Potter could make a mannequin look like a Stanislavsky pro. What is surprising is Freeman's willingness to reprise the role of Alex Cross after the muted response to 'Kiss The Girls'. Once bitten twice shy and all that?

Enjoyment, or even tolerance, of 'Along Came A Spider' hangs upon a couple of plot twists, which even by Hollywood standards are pretty far-fetched. Be warned, this spider could seriously harm viewers.

Tom Grealis