Paramount used to pony up big bucks for the movie rights to James Patterson novels. This time around, Patterson’s “Alex Cross,” named after his titular detecto-shrink, fell to Summit Entertainment, and while Summit is raking in headlines and cash at the moment with those “Twilight” movies, make no mistake: for James Patterson, this is a precipitous drop. Look at the script, though, and it makes sense why every other major studio passed: it’s a flat recycling of every late-‘90s thriller ever made, without an original thought in its head. Worse, it just looks cheap, and cheap combined with unoriginal is not a recipe for success.
Detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and his two partners, childhood friend Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Tommy’s secret coworker with benefits Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), are called to the scene of a gruesome murder, where the ultra-rich daughter of a Chinese businessman is found tortured to death. The killer (Matthew Fox), a hit man for hire and demented psychopath whose name the audience never learns, even leaves a clue as to whom his next target will be. Cross, who “can tell you had scrambled eggs at a hundred yards” (that is an actual line of dialogue), spots the clue and the gang arrives in time to botch the hit, but Alex and Tommy both suffer massive collateral damage in return. At this point, shit gets real.
Whatever you may think of Rob Cohen’s movies, they have always looked good, not quite a poor man’s Michael Bay but at least a less rich man’s Michael Bay. “Alex Cross,” on the other hand, is a poor man’s Rob Cohen. The camera work is downright amateurish: the final showdown between Alex and the killer is a giant blur, as if the cameraman shot it while on fire, and the pan shot of the underground fighting venue is just clunky. Even the big, hyper-choreographed tracking shot of the police arriving at a potential crime scene is not so much flashy as it is laborious. Factor in the story, acting, and the dialogue, and things only get worse.
Final showdown in an abandoned building? Check. Dialogue about the gates of hell and someone appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner? Check. The sociopath who suffers unexplained, out-of-body psychotic episodes? Check. (Hell, we don’t even get the back story of Fox’s character.) Implausible, large-scale kill shot executed to perfection in defiance of all laws of physics? Check. The full-speed, no-look car collision shot from the victim’s point of view that could never, ever happen in real life? Checkmate. The entire film is a walking, talking checklist of ‘90s serial killer movie clichés, and that might actually be all right if they had brought something new to the table. But they don’t, and as a result the movie looks dated and lazy.
Perry is clearly busting his ass to show that he can do these kinds of roles, and while it’s tempting crack some joke along the lines of, “I know Morgan Freeman, and you, sir, are no Morgan Freeman,” Perry is not the problem. He’s not the solution either, but he doesn’t make things worse, at least not in the way the once-reliable Matthew Fox does. Fox looks out of his element here, overacting at random moments like he took his inspiration from Vincent D’Onofrio on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (not a good idea). Only Edward Burns seems to be in on the joke, playing his role like he just walked off the set of “Man on a Ledge” and fully aware that this was not going to end well, so he may as well have fun.
Nothing about “Alex Cross” makes sense. It’s a movie no one asked for, funded by people who didn’t believe in it enough to spend the necessary money to make it better, and assembled by people who put up a half-assed effort at best, on both sides of the camera. Once they made the decision to go low-budget, they should have sent it straight to video, because the big screen does this no favors.(1.5 / 5)
This originally ran October 18, 2012 on Bullz-Eye.com.