Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson (screenplay), James Patterson (novels)
Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Rachel Nichols
Release date: October 19th, 2012
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Running time: 101 minutes
Best part: Ed Burns as Cross’ police partner.
Worst part: The incomprehensible cinematography.
As the lead in a hugely successful series of crime novels by James Patterson, psychologist and detective Alex Cross has been enormously influential for both modern literature and the African-American community. The character has been brought to the screen before; portrayed by Morgan freeman in 90’s crime thrillers Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Alex Cross, based on the 12th book in the series, all too clearly needs the charismatic presence of Freeman. The reboot comes across as nothing more than a simplistic literary adaptation of a series lost on the mass cinema audience.
Cross (Tyler Perry) and police partner Tommy Kane (Ed Burns) are top cops in their precinct overlooking the crime addled streets of Detroit. Established as both a saviour of the innocent and loving family man, Cross has been known to calm the approaching storms around him with tenacity and hyper intelligence. His detective work is second to none, putting him on the war path with the criminals and corrupt. His latest investigation however leads him into the oncoming path of a skinny, psychotic assassin known as Picasso (Matthew Fox). This cat and mouse game soon leads to the darker side of Cross coming to the surface. Overlooked by their own allies, Cross and Kane take the law into their own hands before Picasso can strike his next targets.
This adaptation of the hugely successful series will be lost on anyone unaware of the source material. Director Rob Cohen was once a name to look out for following the success of his first action flick The Fast and the Furious. Cohen here continues his embarrassing losing streak after Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Much like his previous flops, style leaves substance in the dust. Alex Cross‘ contrived story fails to spark excitement, mostly due to a lack of tension or originality. Alex Cross is an inept and dull crime thriller, following the story and character clichés of every cop film of its type. Aiming for influential crime-thrillers such as Se7en and Silence of the Lambs, the film’s lack of emotion, depth or complexity creates a level of tedium endured when watching lesser quality TV police procedurals in the vein of Law and Order or Criminal Minds. The over the top silliness of this adaptation can partly be blamed on the irritating visual style at hand. Yet another director influenced by the work of the late Tony Scott, Cohen directs with a lack of coherence or subtlety, trying desperately to pass it off as a dark and gritty look at Cross’ run in with a psychotic madman.
Constantly shaking and tilting cameras, the awkward inclusion of low grade footage, low lighting and quick cuts develop a classic example of how not to create Bourne style action thrillers. Similarly to Guy Richie’s Interpretation of beloved literary figure Sherlock Homes, Cross investigates each crime scene with remarkable and almost super-human accuracy. Unlike Homes however, Cross’ discoveries aren’t explained or quantified. From one discovery to another, the alluring concept of Cross’ investigative skills are used solely for simplistic exposition; failing to develop the character beyond the obvious. The obvious clichés of every detective thriller are all checked off here. Poorly shot action sequences and a numbingly-silly revenge plot fail to draw attention away from the implausible character motivations or actions. Within the first 20 minutes, basic character traits are repetitively and unnecessarily communicated. Any luck of expanding on basic character types is lost, partly due to the significant lack of chemistry between anyone involved. The consistently flat delivery of the painful dialogue scattered throughout creates little more than a forgettable detective thriller through the eyes of this beloved character.
“He won’t stop. I’ve seen his face. I’ve heard his voice. I will meet his soul at the gates of hell before I let him take a person that I love away from me.” (Alex Cross (Tyler Perry), Alex Cross).
The miscast characters fail to live up to previous examples in the genre. Tyler Perry (primarily known for his melodramatic screenplay/directorial work and for playing the religious, ball busting old woman ‘Madea’ in several of his own features) lacks any sense of emotional range or charisma needed for this important role. Turning down The Wire’s Idris Elba was clearly a mistake, as Elba could have brought flair to this generic cop-thriller. Not faring much better however is Matthew Fox (TV series Lost, Speed Racer) as the psychotic menace, despite being brave enough to shed 35 pounds for the role. Sporting a similarly elaborate villainous façade as Guy Pearce’s recent turn in Lawless, Fox fails to achieve the same charismatic presence and immersion into the wild role. Trying too hard to be a mix of the Joker and Hannibal Lecter, his kooky mannerisms, bulging eyes and thick Brooklyn accent fail to create a satisfying whole. Also faring worse for wear is John C. McGinley as the typical angry police chief. His gruff tone and elaborate mannerisms, though effective for his role as Dr. Cox in Scrubs, distract from every illogical yet serious situation.
Surprisingly, despite his extended career making soapy dramas, Tyler Perry is far from the worst element of Alex Cross. Thanks to the stale screenplay, amateurish direction, and over-the-top performances, this crime-thriller makes for a mutilated corpse.