Film Review – Alex Cross
Renowned playwright Tyler Perry has certainly carved out a Hollywood niche for himself these past few years. Between his incredibly successful turn in the Madea films (all of which he wrote and directed himself) and his myriad other movie and TV projects, he’s proven himself an accessible and beloved icon. Curious and unfortunate, then, that he settled on the dreadful Alex Cross as the vehicle that would ostensibly thrust him into mainstream consciousness.
Attempting to inject new blood into the franchise Morgan Freeman made famous (?) in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, Perry stars as the titular Alex Cross in this astoundingly lunkheaded prequel/reboot/whatever the hell. Focusing on a period in his life before his D.C. stint as an FBI detective, Cross is shown here to be a respected forensic psychologist blessed with the Sherlock-like ability of deductive reasoning. In an early scene where he and his longtime/friend partner Tommy (Edward “Cash Grab” Burns) investigate a murder location, Cross ably runs down a list of detailed scenarios, all of which are then quickly confirmed. All well and good, aside from the fact that a) we’re never given any hint as to how he’s come to these specific conclusions, and b) this amazing talent of his is never utilized again! With as many credited writers as the film has (always a bad sign), you’d think it MIGHT occur to one of them to circle back to this profound gift at some point, especially given the amount of screen time devoted to it in these early sequences. But nope, we’ve got a serial killer to pursue! Why use proven wits when guns and car chases are so much…cooler?
An emaciated Matthew Fox (Lost) hams it up as loose cannon/serial killer Picasso, dubbed as such because of the abstract and crude charcoal drawings he leaves at the scenes of his crimes. His motives are never made explicitly clear, though, as he spends most of the movie mugging it up and quoting Confucius. It seems he thrives on pain and despises the rich..? After a near-capture by Cross, Picasso becomes intent on making his life hell. He starts in with the taunting phone calls and sadistic (and moronic) leaving of clues before eventually taking devious action, shattering Cross’s life as he knows it and sending him spiraling out of control with rage.
I must admit I’ve never seen any of Tyler Perry’s previous work, but he seems like an affable enough presence. A couple of early scenes with his family actually worked for me, blending humor and tenderness quite nicely. The badass turn that takes place in him, then, is all the more jarring when it occurs. All rationality seems to escape him as he works to exact his revenge. We’ve all seen this story and seen it done well (see Taken), but Alex Cross loses its already unsteady footing completely. Perry’s acting goes from inoffensive to indefensible.
The brunt of the blame, though, must be bestowed upon director Rob Cohen. I haven’t seen the original The Fast and the Furious in a handful of years, but it seemed cohesive enough at the time, despite its silliness. Here we’re thrown into the midst of both a thwarted terrorist attack (did I mention Picasso is also a terrorist?) and a prolonged hand-to-hand combat scene in a dilapidated movie theater. Fun enough set pieces, sure, but the direction becomes so disjointed you’re not even sure who’s who, let alone who to root for. We jump from unnecessary close-ups to shaky cam (thanks, Bourne!) to slo-mo with absolutely no through-line. Add an unnecessary twist and thankless roles for Giancarlo Esposito and Jean Reno and call it a day!
I predict Alex Cross will come and go quickly. Let’s hope so for Tyler Perry’s sake, anyway.
Final Grade: D+