It’s been over a decade since we last saw super-sleuth Alex Cross from James Patterson’s bestselling crime novels onscreen in 2001’s Along Came a Spider and 1997’s Kiss the Girls. Back then, he was played by Morgan Freeman. This time around, the rebooted series, a prequel of sorts, stars Tyler Perry as a younger Alex Cross. He’s still a police detective and hasn’t yet made the move to FBI agent in Washington D.C.
Cross, also a psychologist (he shall be addressed as “Detective Dr. Cross,” thankyouverymuch) is well-known and respected for his amazing criminal profiling abilities and talent for figuring out things like a coffee stain on a shirt means a person drank coffee that day. Cross and his two partners Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) are hot on the trail of a sadistic serial killer nicknamed Picasso who’s been offing or attempting to off some very important people. It soon turns personal when Picasso turns his attention on Cross himself.
The tagline for this film is “Don’t Ever Cross Alex Cross.” That deserves a beer on its own. This is the best tagline they were able to think of? “Don’t Hassle the Hoff” is a more creative play on words. I would love to know the rejected tag lines.
Okay, so let’s get into it. Everything you’ve heard is true. It’s that bad.
Now, it would be extremely easy to pin all of the blame on Tyler Perry, because let’s face it, he’s an easy target with his resume of extremely ludicrous but insanely lucrative movies. Clearly the casting choice was made based on his name’s box office drawing abilities with poor Idris Elba being shoved aside for the starring role once Perry showed interest. And in terms of dollars, it was a smart decision. The showing I attended was sold the hell out. There was even applause at the end. I’m not joking. It’s evident the majority of the attendees at the Alex Cross screenings this weekend have seen all of the Madea movies and most likely have not read one of James Patterson’s novels.
To his credit, Perry is not terrible. (There’s your toast. Happy?) That doesn’t mean he is particularly good either. For one, it’s pretty damn hard to fill the shoes of Morgan Freeman. But aside from that, there’s just something about Tyler Perry that doesn’t fit the role. A vapidness. A smugness almost? It hard to pinpoint but I just can’t buy it. It would have been interesting to see what Elba could have done with the character,though with every other aspect of this movie being as bad as it is, I doubt there’s much he could have done. More on that in a bit.
Matthew Fox is nearly unrecognizable as the psychotic serial killer known as Picasso (he leaves charcoal drawings of each victim with hidden clues to his next target. And by hidden clues, I mean those, you remember Mad Magazine? The back cover you would fold over to reveal a gag photo?—Forget it, it’s just too asinine). Fox certainly looks the part of a deranged killer with his bulging veiny muscles, but every time he would speak or bug his eyes out I had to stifle a laugh. It was comical. Almost campy. Like Perry as Cross, something just didn’t work with this casting. Maybe it’s because I will forever think of Fox as Charlie from Party on Five (I never got into Lost). Speaking of, the writers of this movie missed a golden opportunity for Picasso to say “Cross? Party of one?”
This scene made me wish I was watching Here Comes the Boom again instead.
Edward Burns plays Tommy, the longtime partner/best friend of Alex Cross. What can you say about Ed Burns? He’s Ed Burns and he Ed Burns his way through this role just as he has Ed Burned his way through pretty much every other role he’s ever played.
The part of Madea is played by Cicely Tyson, not Perry, this time around. Okay, okay, Nana Mama is an actual character from Patterson’s books and Tyson brings heart and emotion to a film that really doesn’t require it.
There’s a sketchy Frenchman played by Jean Reno named Leon which only reminded me of a much better film in which a skinnier Jean Reno plays a character named Leon. Carmen Ejogo (who stunned earlier this year in Sparkle) and Rachel Nichols, despite both underused, were the two highlights for me.
“But I’m a cop, why do I have to be plot device?”
Audience: “BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN!”
You may be willing to put these things aside as a fan of James Patterson’s work, but it would be a mistake since the film is not an adaptation of one of his books. Instead screenwriters Marc Moss (who did write the screenplay for Along Came a Spider, which was based on an actual book) and Kerry Williamson threw together a generic, lazy, plothole-ridden mess of a movie with some familiar Tyler Perry movie-isms mixed in (emotional scene set in a church, cheesy sappy family moments, a gospel song,) to ease Perry’s audience into the transition of Tyler Perry, Action Star. Which fine, I get it, and it wouldn’t annoy me as much if the plot was somewhat well-constructed and made any friggin sense.
Here’s a perfect example. Picasso uses a drug to paralyze his victims rendering them unable to move or speak but that allows them to feel everything while he tortures them. We learn that during one such instance he was able to force his prey into giving up a secure computer password.
Precisely. I guess this specialized tranquilizer is able to decipher when a victim wants to speak a secret computer password and therefore temporarily deactivates allowing them to regain the ability to talk?
Then there’s the direction of Rob Cohen. This is the same guy that brought us xXx and he hasn’t matured much as a director since then. I had a headache from all the fast pans, which was compounded by the fact that the only available seat in the theater my late ass was able to get was up front. I had to look away from the blurry chaos onscreen several times. But I would guess the sequences were just as sloppy looking from the last row. There are effective ways to film action scenes. Cohen apparently doesn’t know any of them. There was even a swoosh pan on food. Food!
It never ceases to amaze me how certain movies are granted the gift of a PG-13 rating with others are slapped with an R. Alex Cross, despite containing a couple lengthy torture scenes, gets away with the audience-friendly PG-13. I guess fingers being dismembered is not as bad as boobies or a couple F-bombs.
My head hurts. Let’s skip to the end.
Quick! Close your eyes and think of a clichéd climax to an action-thriller.
Does it include a deserted warehouse-type setting where the protagonist and bad guy duke it out mano-a-mano (because the back-up just cannot arrive in time) on a set of high-up beams resulting in the bad guy dangling from the good guy’s grip above a platform wherein the good guy letting go would result in bad guy’s certain death?
Well, I don’t want to spoil this movie for those of you who have never seen a movie before but…
I suppose if you’re a fan of Tyler Perry and don’t enjoy things like suspense, mystery, character development and smart storytelling then you’ll probably really like Alex Cross. Have fun!
“I bet you wish you were closer to free right now sucka!”
Take a Drink: every time a woman is killed.
Take a Drink: every time you imagine Tyler Perry in the Nana Mama role.
Take a Drink: every time Matthew Fox hilariously bugs out his eyes.
Take a Drink: every time Alex Cross states the obvious.
Take a Drink: at every product placement.
Do a Shot: when you think it’s over but it isn’t.
Pop a Tylenol: at every headache-inducing fast pan.