Bouncing around as Luke Perry's barking spouse "Pam Anderson" in Normal Life is probably not what you want to be remembered for. But by the time of this 1997 release, Ashley Judd had paid her dues as "the blonde wife" (Heat/A Time To Kill) or worse, simply the sibling of Country And Western star Wynnona, and here nets the sort of leading role that Brad Pitt must have hankered after for so long too.
Dr. Alex Cross (Freeman) has carved a much admired career as an intuitive but detached police detective specialising in forensic evidence and criminal psychology. And just when he's looking forward to spending his autumnal years with feet up, slippers on, watching his best-selling scribblings bolster an ever swelling bank account, someone goes and swipes his niece.
Well, not just someone, in fact, but very probably a serial killer going by the name of Casanova, who's killed two and is suspected of abducting several others, fates unknown. One of his victims, however - plucky young medic Kate Mctiernan (Judd) - has taken a walk into the jaws of hell and managed, by the skin of her skin during a headlong flight through woods and a white water ravine, to escape. Being the case's only lead, she's suddenly forcing calm, methodical loner Cross into a partnership and a race against time, all beset by hitherto unknown emotional involvement.
Echoes of The Silence Of The Lambs ring strong, of course, simply due to common subject matter. But what made that such a classic was its conviction of performance and such conviction is here, too - in spades. His stoic, reliable self, Freeman brings depth and serious tone to the movie and just about manages to depart from Seven's Lt. William Somerset, while Judd displays a capable compassion and more than enough presence to lead a film.
There's solid support from Elwes, Brian Cox and Alex McArthur as local cops suspicious of external investigators, and it's a subtle balance from director Fleder - who debuted with Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead - drawing the audience into emotional involvement with his characters, while weaving in the shock and twist demanded by the genre.