Not Enough Psychological Weight
Hollywood’s grand aspirations of mirroring the same success author James Patterson has realized with his Alex Cross series of novels takes another significant hit with the release of Alex Cross, a film starring Tyler Perry (yes, that Tyler Perry) in the role of the titular detective and psychologist. With Paramount having failed to gain any traction while Morgan Freeman carried the Cross mantle over a decade ago in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, Rob Cohen gives it a whirl in what is essentially the origin story of the character as a Detroit police detective.
Most closely resembling Cross, Patterson’s 12th novel in the series, the story sees the homicide detective in Detroit before his eventual move to Washington D.C. While being heavily recruited by the FBI, he meets resistance from wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo) who is expecting their third child as well as from his mother (Cicely Tyson) who, despite her crotchety ways, just wants what’s best for the Cross family.
But before Cross can settle in to a nice comfy desk job at the bureau, there’s the matter of a deranged serial killer dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox) due to his penchant for leaving Cubist-style charcoal drawings at the scenes of his crimes. Seems Picasso (also occasionally called “The Butcher of Sligo” and “Four Roses” for unexplained reasons) is a hit man for hire involved in a plot to take out Detroit-based multi-national industrialist Leon Mercier (Jean Reno).
Accompanied by his lifelong friend and partner Det. Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and their assistant Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), the trio relies on Cross’ psychology background and innate ability to get into the killer’s head to anticipate what will be Picasso’s next move. As the investigation proceeds, aided by Picasso’s cryptic clues, Cross and his gang face off with the mad man in a high stakes game of cat and mouse with hopes of arriving just in time to foil the dastardly plot.
The enjoyment of an Alex Cross film and one of the few areas that worked in the earlier Freeman films, is supposed to come from watching the detective psychoanalyze his enemy and pore over crime scenes like a wily bloodhound. And while we do get a brief taste of this as Cross and his team investigate the scene of Picasso’s first murder early in the film, Cohen and screenwriter Marc Ross abandon the tactic much too early in favor of ramping up the action, a la Cohen’s Fast and Furious. That’s likely a studio decision however, as mind games aren’t nearly as cinematic as blowing up stuff.
Many viewers will be confounded seeing Perry in the role of Alex Cross, for this marks the actor’s first real letting go of his Madea apron strings for a heavy dramatic part. And credit must be given for wanting to show a bit of versatility. But Perry isn’t the problem here. In fact, he more closely fits the physical profile of the book’s 40-something character -- who is both big and physical. Still, he’s not the solution either. Neither is the usually reliable Matthew Fox who, despite a disturbing physical transformation that turns him into a ghostly skeleton of his former self, seems clearly out of his element as he channels a shell of DeNiro’s Travis Bickle. Only Cicely Tyson and Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito are able to lend a sense of personality to their characters.
Although it’s clear that Summit Entertainment desperately wants another profitable franchise, I don’t think it’s going to be the Alex Cross series that carries the studio forward once the Twilight phenomenon peters out after the release of its final episode later this fall. There’s just not enough psychological weight to counter the unnatural dialogue, shoddy camera work, and entirely implausible finale that plague the film. It takes hard work and diligent attention to build the next Bourne or Bond, and it becomes perfectly clear that neither was given to Alex Cross.
(Released by Summit Entertainment and rated "PG-13" for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references and nudity.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.