James Patterson's literary detective/psychologist Alex Cross has had a decently successful life in films. Both Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider are competent thrillers handled with panache. Also, being portrayed by Morgan Freeman helps anyone out. He hasn't been seen on screen for a while, but now with the eponymous Alex Cross bringing him back he's set to make a triumphant return.
Too bad you have to be in a good movie to have a triumphant return. Alex Cross is the type of film that makes you hate watching movies. A film so ill conceived from beginning to end that by the time it's over you find yourself slack jawed in awe at how bad it truly is. I've never seen a Madea film, but if this is the best acting Tyler Perry is capable of I mourn for the state of American cinema.
Alex Cross is based on the book Cross, which I will readily admit I have not read. In fact I haven't read any of the Cross books so if they're thing is being poorly written with bland characters, little emotion and plots that never amount to anything than this movie is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen. My guess, however, is that the books are at least somewhat enjoyable since people keep reading them, and in that case James Patterson needs to get a lawyer so he can sue for defamation.
For those as in the dark about Cross (Perry) as I was, he is a Detroit detective (though in the books he's from D.C.) who also is a psychologist and has a Sherlock Holmes like ability to notice details. He and his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) are put on the case of a tortured and killed socialite and get hot on the trail of psychotic killer Picasso (Matthew Fox). After foiling Picasso's next assassination attempt the psychopath turns his rage onto Cross threatening his family and his friends. It's up to Cross to figure out who he is and where his next strike will be before more people die.
Of course more people do die, and in fact this could be an incredibly thrilling film if it wasn't handled without an ounce of delicacy. To begin with the film's direction is all over the place. Director Rob Cohen is better known for his over-the-top action and it's clear he has no idea what to do when he's got to present some actual emotions. Scenes are almost uncomfortable at points they're so poorly pieced together, and he somehow manages to make every interaction seemed forced. Cross's eventual outrage at Picasso seems ludicrously tame thanks to the fact Cohen can't make the two ever seem to truly clash, and the pacing of the film leads to a movie that doesn't feel like it has a beginning, middle or end. Things just sort of sit for two hours until someone dies at the end.
It doesn't help that the screenplay is clunkier than a pair of winter boots. It's strange because the same screenwriter that adapted Along Came a Spider worked on this screenplay as well, but instead of a well constructed mystery we just get a gaggle of scenes that build to nothing. It doesn't help either the screenplay or the direction that the studio clearly forced a PG-13 on the film. For a movie about an extremely disturbed, psychopath who mutilates his victims and a police officer with some very serious emotional issues you need an R rating. Instead we're treated to mystifyingly bad murder scenes that pack no punch and a incredibly perturbed Alex Cross that is reduced to calling Picasso a maggot because he can't cuss on screen. I don't know what teenage audience they were trying to target by having the lesser rating because no teenager I know has been scrambling to see the next Alex Cross movie.
Finally we get to the performances, which are around the same level as a community theater. There are actually some very solid actors in this movie and yet none of them seem to be able to get a convincing line out. Part of it is Cohen's direction, but it's also because they're acting against Perry who doesn't seem to be able to look interested in what he's doing at all. On the opposite side of that Matthew Fox has simply gone all out. Not only undergoing an insane physical transformation for the role, but pretty much jumping off the deep end in his portrayal. His acting is so ridiculous that you can't help but enjoy the absurdity of his insanity. It's the only highlight in the film, and it's only a highlight because the film is so bad.
I hope to god this movie doesn't do well simply because Tyler Perry is in it. If audiences give films like this validation it means more movies will be made like it, and I'm just not sure I can take that. Alex Cross feels like the fan film some crazed James Patterson fan would cook up with no budget and no talent. It has no mystery, no depth and no joy. Make sure to Cross it off your list of movies to see (I've been waiting all review to say that).