James Patterson’s novels provide me with fluffy fodder for summer reading. I particularly like his Ladies Murder Club mysteries and I have read several from the Alex Cross series, but much prefer Patterson’s female protagonists. Director Rob Cohen’s new film Alex Cross, starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, and Cicely Tyson, however isn’t based on any Patterson novel really, but rather on previous films highlighting the Cross character. Still, the movie’s problems go far beyond source material. Asinine dialogue, poor direction and a predictable and lackluster plot simply can’t be saved by a decent cast and flashy special effects.
Perhaps a notable problem with Alex Cross, lies in the fact that Perry plays a younger version of the character originally portrayed by the masterful Morgan Freeman (In Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider), who is a difficult act to follow by any performer and Perry simply doesn’t have the acting chops. In fairness, Perry does give an adequate enough execution, but nothing more and frankly, scriptwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson give him and the balance of the cast little with which to work. In fact, the dialogue is the worst part of the film.
We meet this young Cross, his partners and his family and soon discover that he harbors mad Sherlock Holmes level deduction skills. As a special detective/criminal psychologist, Cross’ keen knack for noticing details make him an asset to a case involving serial killer/hit man Picasso (a scary, gaunt Fox), who soon after his first sadistic murder, and near miss with Cross and team, makes it personal. While I am on the subject, Fox, possibly the best thing about the film, plays a hyper-creepy, wild-eyed killer with unsettling ease, even if he plays the character so big it comes across cartoon-like. I hardly recognized him as the handsome, hunky doctor Jack from Lost. Tyson throws herself passionately into the role of Cross’s no-holds-barred mother (Mama Nana), but Burns seems to simply go through the motions of his character, Detective Tommy Kane, Cross’s partner and best friend.
Cohen allows the plot to poke along without enough flash or substance, in spite of a few decently paced, semi-exciting action sequences. Efforts in character clashes garner more guffaws and groans from the audience than cheers. Moss and Williamson’s transparent story never surprises and the killing off characters right and left (spoiler – it doesn’t pay to be female in Alex Cross), does little to enhance excitement. Too much of the film relies on Master-Sleuth Cross, who makes a grave and uncharacteristic mistake in deduction, turning the hit man’s wrath on the team, and Perry can’t carry the weight, even if the others can. Laughably, SCRUBS veteran and funny man, John C McGinley (Captain Richard Brookwell), could not have been more wrongly cast. Chuckles came from the audience every time he delivered a line – his portrayal hardly different than that of Dr. Perry Cox. Jean Reno, too, falls flat, as a corporate baddy with a secret agenda. He looks pinched and uncomfortable throughout.
Ultimately, the plodding, formulaic, PG-13 rated serial thriller falters on far too many levels to garner much praise. The finale, while I was glad for it, is about as dim-witted as they come, even if it lamely answered the film’s pressing question – who hired the hit man? Truthfully, no one cares. I am placing an F in my grade book. Sure I’ve seen worse, but only just and I can always use titles for my Worst Of lists.