Alex Cross review

Tyler Perry takes over from Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. Here’s Ron’s review of a disappointingly toothless thriller…

Alex Cross is a man who wears many hats: husband, father, police officer, detective, and psychiatrist all in one. It appears that he is great at all of these vocations, because Cross and his team of detectives are the best in the entirety of the Detroit Police Department (non-RoboCop division). Cross and his partners Tommy (Edward Burns) and Monica (Rachel Nichols) have stopped all manner of baddies, but they’ve never faced anything like the nameless assassin stalking one of Detroit’s richest men. 

Calling himself the Butcher of Sligo and dubbed by Cross and Tommy as Picasso for his charcoal drawings left at the scene of a brutal quadruple homicide, the killer (Matthew Fox, looking absolutely ripped to the gills) seems to be a man on a mission. He’s killing his way up the food chain of a massive company run by Leon Mercier (Jean Reno, who has gained so much weight he even sounds different). Picasso is brutal, efficient, and one of the smartest men Alex Cross has ever crossed paths with.

Can Cross and company stop Picasso before he topples the French billionaire?

Tyler Perry is a mammoth, outsized man in every sense of the word. He’s a legitimate 6’5 and well north of 250 pounds, and that’s when he is in pretty good shape. He has a big, easy smile, expressive facial features, and he acts like someone who grew up doing stage acting in the sense that he has big mannerisms and really projects his emotions in a melodramatic way. Make no mistake about it, he’s definitely got charm and charisma, but he still has a problem with going too big with his expressions and delivery. There’s no real subtlety to his craft, for better and worse. This seems to rub off on Matthew Fox as well; whenever Perry goes big, Fox seems to go bigger and crazier. To his credit, he looks really creepy, so at least there’s that.

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The script, from Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, doesn’t help them tone it down. The actors are given clichés to spout about killers being one step ahead of Alex Cross, who is a black Sherlock Holmes with more guns, and the sadistic nature of his crimes and attitudes. The dialogue is obvious and trite, so I can only assume the actors (aside from Edward Burns) try to turn their emoting up to 11 to make up for it. The result is uninspiring, to say the least, and the plot is pedestrian at best. In hindsight, it’s a good thing Idiris Elba got out of this project when he could/was cut when he was.

However, since this is a PG-13 movie, Alex Cross doesn’t get any more savage or brutal than your average TV movie, albeit one with a big budget. It doesn’t help that Rob Cohen shoots it like a TV movie filmed during an earthquake. When he’s not using blatant musical cues to remind us that Alex is, say, having a touching moment with his daughter, he’s shaking the camera so much that the movie’s fight scenes are impossible to watch. Someone grunts, the camera jiggles like Madea on a stripper pole, people run across what seems to be a ship caught in a storm, and even driving in a car requires nausea cam. The talking bits were a relief, if only because that’s the only time the camera didn’t shake wildly.

If you’re going to have a movie about a brutal killer, shouldn’t he be brutal? Whenever the movie seems to be stepping into something a little too rough, there’s a blatant attempt to dial it back, from nudity-free sex scenes (interrupted of course) to a ‘tortured corpse’ that looks like an actress with an extra layer of pancake makeup on to make her look strangled with no other signs of brutality. The end result of never pressing for more is that the movie ends up talky and toothless as a result. Even one of the more hard-edged scenes gets undercut by a Wilhelm scream.

Even if Alex Cross were a television movie, it’d be a disappointingly average one. As a big-screen prequel to Morgan Freeman’s take on Alex Cross, Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, it’s doubly disappointing. No guts, no glory, and no consistent competence from anyone involved. Energy and effort can only get you so far.

Alex Cross opens on the 30th November in the UK.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see Tyler Perry do something that isn’t Madea related or self-written, but perhaps this was not his best project idea. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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2 out of 5