Morgan Freeman plays novelist James Patterson's dogged detective Alex Cross, a Washington DC crime fighter who travels to North Carolina to investigate the kidnapping of his niece. Help comes from Ashley Judd's nervy former kidnap victim, but it's clear he's dealing with a particularly devious foe. Slick crime thriller in the tradition of The Silence of the Lambs.
There are similarities to The Silence of the Lambs in this solid serial-killer thriller, with girl victims imprisoned underground - and sometimes taken out and killed - by a sadist who calls himself Casanova.
Morgan Freeman lends his authoritative presence to the central role, Alex Cross (created by novelist James Patterson), a police psychologist whose own niece is one of the victims.
And Ashley Judd is excellent as the doctor who escapes from Casanova's subterranean warren after he's snatched her from her own home.
Following a riveting first 40 minutes, the film loses impetus as the writer struggles to spin it out towards two-hour length and the villain's inevitable final attempt to dispatch the heroine for good.
Casanova's lair and his harem of victims are a shade too lurid to be chilling and a conversation between bad guys at the end doesn't work.
Still, the master killer's identity is quite well hidden and there are too many good moments to dismiss this as just another crime case.