The third film based on James Patterson’s detective Alex Cross, after Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, sees Tyler Perry take over the title role from Morgan Freeman. On the one hand the younger incarnation of Cross getting a Batman Begins style reboot has, on paper, potential. Add action director Rob Cohen to the mix and Alex Cross should have been a thrilling little cat-and-mouse cop vs. killer movie but instead is frustratingly bland and predictable.
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is one of Detroit City’s best cops. A mastermind detective who is able to analyse a crime scene and see things others are blind to. When ruthless assassin Picasso (Matthew Fox) starts killing people involved in a city redevelopment program, Cross understands this killer gets a kick out his profession. But as Cross, and partner Thomas Kane (Edward Burns), close in on Picasso he turns the tables on them, going after those closest to them and sparking an anger in Cross few thought possible.
Alex Cross wants to be a modern day Sherlock Holmes, that genius man who gets into the head of the men he hunts to always be one step ahead of them. And yet, it is written in such a way that, rather than allow an insight into a man looking deep into the abyss of the human psyche, we’re instead asked to watch Tyler Perry go all Death Wish come Get Carter (billowing dramatic overcoat included) on a villain so boo-hiss as to make him nothing more than bland-come-camp.
Rob Cohen, director of The Fast And The Furious and XXX, is clearly not happy with dealing in slow-burn thrillers, so even in the more interesting moments of Alex Cross he tries to up the ante. This boils down to a sound track booming with rock ditties and visuals so extravagant you wonder if he’s been taking tips from Michael Bay. Throw in a couple of CGI dominated set pieces and the name Alex Cross seems irrelevant. When you hear that at one point Pitch Black director and writer of The Fugitive David Twohy was set to direct Alex Cross, with The Wire’s Idris Elba in the lead role, you are left wondering that some where in development hell is an infinitely more interesting and engaging incarnation of this super sleuth.
Tyler Perry is something of the house hold name in his native US but on a global scale he seems like a big step down from the gravitas of Freeman’s former Cross character. He does a sound enough job but the script undermines his character arc. At first we are witness to an intellect, a man able to outthink anyone, but by the halfway point Perry’s Cross is nothing more than a hulking man-mountain hell-bent on revenge. The more interesting qualities of the character have faded, leaving an action-man not quite cutout for chase. Burns is on duty to do little more than offer the occasional buddy chemistry for Cross to bounce off and is conveniently sidelined from the story when he becomes nothing more than a distraction from the mano e mano of Cross vs. Killer. But Alex Cross’ biggest flop is its villain. Lost’s Matthew Fox is on such pantomime levels of villainy you can almost here him hissing his lines. His physical presence, all flexing muscles and wide-eyed head-tilts, may intimidate Disney princesses but the more discerning audience members need more than this to be convinced. So comical are some of his facial expressions you wonder if the man needs a little more fiber in his diet.
The first act of Alex Cross throws up some interesting ideas but between some poor scripting, misguided direction and hammy performances it rapidly loses its way. By the climax it doesn’t so much make you cross as catatonic will boredom.