Written by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson
Directed by Rob Cohen
Starring Rachel Nichols, Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox
Continuing his streak of brainless action movies, director Rob Cohen has created yet another standard cat and mouse thriller with Alex Cross. Based on James Patterson’s popular book series, the film attempts to revive the iconic FBI profiler made famous by the brilliant Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider — to variable success this time around.
Serving as an origin story, Tyler Perry, most famous for performing in drag as his infamous character Madea, plays the titular character during his early days as a homicide detective in Detroit. While Cross contemplates a future FBI career in Washington, he’s also trying to solve a series of grisly murders courtesy of the Picasso Killer, played by an over-the-top and cartoonish Matthew Fox. Realizing that the murders are all connected and seem to be working up the “food chain” of a prestigious corporation, Cross sabotages one of the Picasso Killer’s plots, causing a mundane, archetypal battle between good and evil to break out.
While the previous outings of the Alex Cross character didn’t result in exceptional cinema, Freeman’s previous portrayals at least brought a sense of emotional depth to the character. Cross was an intriguing figure in Freeman’s hands, which is not the case with Perry’s interpretation. In this particular incarnation, Cross is a family man who spends the majority of his life offering hokey advice to his children and having moments of pointless romance with his wife. It’s like watching Mr. Dressup solve crimes as Perry fails to deliver the much-needed depth required to play a detective who spends his waking hours hunting down pure evil. Likely intending to bring a sense of the anti-hero motif to the film, it ultimately feels like Perry didn’t read the source material.
While Cohen attempts to portray Perry as the ultimate badass, it’s simply a case of poor casting. Not only does Perry not have the thespian qualities that Freeman does, but he also lacks the swagger and heroism of a detective. The film has plenty of other wasted talent in the form of Cicely Tyson, John C. McGinley and Giancarlo Esposito, all of whom hurt their filmography by lending their talents to Alex Cross. Esposito in particular would’ve been in fine form as Cross, but he’s relegated to a few minutes of screen time — a poor choice on behalf of the director.
Alex Cross is also hurt by Cohen’s trademark reliance on over the top, melodramatic action sequences, previously seen in his awful The Fast and the Furious and xXx. While it might work for viewers who want exaggerated explosions and fight sequences, including a pseudo-UFC fight in the film’s initial moments, this movie definitely doesn’t cater to an audience seeking an intellectually stimulating action piece.
Although the movie is passable at times, saved by some unforeseeable twists and a compelling sniper sequence at a restaurant, it’s still little more than a by-the-books action movie made even more ridiculous by casting a paunchy, middle-aged man as a believable action hero.
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