Starring: Tyler Perry, Mathew Fox, Edward Burns
You may like this if you liked: Jack Reacher (Christopher McQuarrie, 2012), Along Came a Spider (Lee Tamahori, 2001), Factory (Morgan O’Neill, 2012)
Dr. Alex Cross (Perry) is one of Detroit’s finest detectives (naturally) and looks set to leave working on the dangerous streets of Detroit for the relatively safe desk of an FBI profiler so he can spend more time with his family and not risk them losing him. Trust me that is the first of many clichés. A serial killer by the name of Picasso (Fox) is torturing and murdering rich business people of Detroit. He leaves a Cubist Charcoal drawing by his victim to leave a clue as to who his next victim is, hence the name (My god that is clever!). Due to unforeseen circumstances involving Cross and his team of walking clichés trying to protect Picasso’s next target, things get very personal between the two of them. Alex Cross is then forced to, yes you guessed it, test his own moral and physical limits to pursue and catch Picasso and to stop him terrorising the city.
I have never read a James Patterson novel, but I know this man is an absolute machine when it comes to churning out crime thrillers and he is the biggest seller in the world at the moment so he must be doing something right. His Alex Cross books are one of his most popular and long running so considering Lee Childs and Jo Nesbo books are being made into films it was inevitable that Hollywood was going to return to James Patterson. After all the two previous outings starring Morgan Freeman were in my view very solid thrillers. When I saw this film was directed by Rob Cohen (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire, Stealth, xXx) I was genuinely scarred; this is a man who makes extremely dumb and not very fun action films. I can safely say that in my view Alex Cross is Rob Cohen’s best film, but when I say that it is hardly his 9th Symphony. Alex Cross is an incredibly dumb and stupid film that seems to make sure it ticks every Hollywood crime thriller cliché on the list. The performances, screenplay, directing and plotting are shoddy, flat and predictable. The embarrassingly horrific tagline on the poster says “Don’t ever cross Alex Cross”, that basically sets the standard for the entire film. I sincerely hope the books are much better than this.
I have noticed there have been some extremely angry reviews of this film that have well and truly slated it. I must confess that though it is by no means great (or indeed good) I have seen much, much worse recently (The Sweeney, Savages to name two). Due to the fact it is directed by Rob Cohen I had low expectations and these were met, but I did not feel that I had wasted my time. I would give this film a four out of ten as it is very watchable if you fancy something that requires no thought whatsoever and enter with low expectations.
Tyler Perry does seem to be having a good go at trying to make this role his own and kick start a successful franchise for himself. Despite there being so many books, I don’t expect another Alex Cross film anytime soon so it is back to wearing the dress for Mr. Perry. However his lack of screen presence, lack of ability to have more than one facial expression and less than commanding monotone fixed level voice provide a less than memorable hero. His lack of chemistry with Edward Burns and the flat script mean that any talky scenes are just plain boring. Even what is supposed to be an extremely emotional plot development just simply is not, it is genuinely impressive in some ways just how emotionless it all actually feels.
For all its flaws Jack Reacher was in my view very good fun due to Cruise’s natural enthusiasm and charisma, Alex Cross plays it predominantly serious, but when the plotting is this stupid that is in my view a huge mistake. For me the only comedy was Mathew Fox. I admire his effort and commitment for going skinny, but that attempted psycho stare he attempts just really made me laugh. When you are finding the film’s antagonist who is supposed to be a crazed psycho serial killer funny, then perhaps the film has failed a little. Even the usually dependable Jean Reno appears to be intentionally exaggerating his own natural accent and sounds more like Inspector Clouseau.
Alex Cross also seems to follow the current trend of Hollywood thrillers with a ‘clever’ twist revealing who the actual ‘bad guy’ is. It delivers the twist with an element of smugness, but due to silly casting decisions it is blatantly obvious long before it happens. Even how the actors are shown on the cast list in the credits gives it away before the film has even started. Anyone who has seen this or another recent example like Safe House will know what I mean.
A perfect example of how to brutally murder a franchise before it has begun; Alex Cross is beyond stupid but yet attempts to play it serious. It is just about watchable, and Mathew Fox brings unintentional humour but have very low expectations (and maybe a few alcohol drinks) first.