Review: Alex Cross
PLOT: Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is a brilliant Detroit homicide detective, juggling the demands of his job with his home life. When he foils the murderous plans of a sociopath assassin (Matthew Fox)- who’ s targeting the employees of a multi-billion dollar empire run by the enigmatic Leon Mercier (Jean Reno)- his family becomes the killer’s next target.
REVIEW: Ten years after Morgan Freeman’s last outing as Alex Cross (ALONG CAME A SPIDER, which followed KISS THE GIRLS), the character is once again brought to life on the big-screen. In a detour from the Freeman films, ALEX CROSS shows us the character’s early days as a homicide detective, before becoming the famed FBI profiler he became later in the series. Given that James Patterson’s wildly popular series is still going strong (already having run about 20 novels) - a CROSS film series could potentially go on for years and years, but is star Tyler Perry, not to mention director Rob Cohen (THE FAST & THE FUROUS, XXX) up to the task of delivering a franchise?
Well, the answer to half of that equation is yes, and it may not be the half you think. Tyler Perry’s gotten a lot of grief for his never-ending series of urban comedy-dramas, many of which see him in drag as family matriarch Madea. I’ll be honest, other than the non-drag GOOD DEEDS- for which I recently reviewed the Blu-ray, I haven’t seen any of Perry’s films. I simply have no interest.
But an Alex Cross movie? Now THAT is something I was up for seeing. Not having been exposed to much of his work, I didn’t go in with any baggage about whether Perry- in a straight dramatic role, would be a capable lead. Having seen the film for myself, I gotta say- he’s not half bad. While he’s better in the first half of the film, which depicts him as a devoted family man/detective, with a strong compassionate streak, Perry seemed pretty perfect in the role. Once the film takes a more violent turn about mid-way through, Perry was less convincing, as the role suddenly required a lot of physical action, which the slightly paunchy Perry didn’t seem quite up to. He also seems a little goody-two-shoes for the darker places he goes to later in the film, including cutting a bargain with a neighborhood crime kingpin (a cameo by the great Giancarlo Esposito). Still- with a little tailoring to his own style, I could see Perry growing along with the part- even if Idris Elba, who was initially attached, might have made a more immediately dynamic lead.
Too bad Perry is shot in the foot by Rob Cohen’s shockingly half-assed direction, which is bargain basement from start to finish. What happened to Cohen? While he’s never been one of my favorite directors, I would have never pegged him as lazy, but ALEX CROSS is one lazy phoned-in film. It’s directed like a tepid episode of CSI, and once the action kicks in for the second half, which includes a climatic hand-to-hand fight between Perry and Matthew Fox’s sinewy baddie (more on him shortly) the film is all but impossible to follow. The fight scenes are absolutely terrible and indecipherable- and at a mere 100 minutes, the film drags and drags.
To give you an idea of how badly the film is shot, Matthew Fox, who spent months dropping body fat to play the sociopath killer (dubbed Picasso)- is shot so badly that if I hadn’t seen the stills released on him to the press, I would have never known the extent of his transformation. You never get a good look at his physique, which totally robs the film of one of the big things it had going for it- which is the shock value of Fox’s changed body. Considering that the PG-13 means that most of his sadistic streak is suggested rather than shown (although in my opinion, this is pretty morbid for a PG-13, and the subject matter demands an R), Fox’s transformation should have given audiences a jolt, but Cohen (or his editor) really mucks it up.
Also unfortunate is the fact that Fox’s performance isn’t good enough to make up for the way he’s filmed, as he’s pretty cartoonish and whiny, where he should have been scary or intense. The way his character, an assassin who dabbles in MMA when not dismembering people, is described- he should have been like Hannibal Lecter mixed with Jason Statham, but the way he’s shown here- he’s not scary, or even particularly memorable.
The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Edward Burns is effective as Cross’ life-long best bud and fellow-cop, and their chemistry is solid. Rachel Nichols gets short shrift as Cross’ sexy partner, with not much being required of the role other than to look pretty and spunky. Reno is OK, but only shows up here and there. Probably the most memorable part of the supporting cast is Cicely Tyson as Cross’ granny- Nana Mama, chewing the scenery in her handful of scenes.
Perry and the mostly decent cast keeps ALEX CROSS from being a total bomb, but the direction and editing is a mess, robbing the film of any tension or thrills. While Perry is good enough to continue with the part, he’s not given much of a chance to prove himself- which is a shame.