Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) can do no wrong. A Boy Scout at home, he’s the ideal husband, father, and son, always saying and doing the right thing. The same spotless record translates to his work as a Detroit Police Department homicide detective. Chasing down bad guys and reading crime scenes with Sherlockian aplomb, Alex is a flawless big shot, pleasing all the people all the time, including himself.
With a lead incapable of fault, only boredom can occur, which is precisely how things play out in Rob Cohen’s wannabe-badass film. Try as he and screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson might to pump up the danger and excitement of James Patterson’s source material, Alex Cross is as high-octane as a Lifetime Original Movie. Nowhere near the quality of Morgan Freeman’s take on the same character, the bulletproof safety of the story and its franchise-friendly lead turns what, on paper, might be construed as actual threats into paper tigers. With an especially wooden performance by Perry leading the charge, the only thing left to root for is the closing credits.
In such an environment, an emaciated Matthew Fox, looking more like an angry snowman than a serial killer, can only pose so much of a threat. The film’s PG-13 depiction of R-rated violence, torture, and sex sterilizes his Butcher of Sligo on the spot, and for a villain who wants to go into hard R territory, he’s almost visibly tormented by the restraint to keep it clean for the kids.
How Fox then chooses to relay his menace makes for a grab bag of misfortune. A joke from his first awkward scowl, his “gruesome” charcoal sketches likewise do little for his fear factor. Targeting Alex simply because he gets in the way of a hit, part of a larger killing spree, he combines over-the-top reptilian tics with an enunciation that makes Liam Neeson’s Taken patter sound Shakespearean. As he waltzes around the Motor City, bug-eyed and talking to himself, he behaves how a six-year-old might if asked to do an impression of a crazy person, and the result is just as terrifying.
At least the acting is consistently bad. Under such a blatant lack of direction from Cohen, the fairly respectable cast runs wild. Despite ample cause for revenge, Perry never makes Alex’s vigilante actions worthy of investment. One of recent cinema’s more bizarre casting decisions, he’s too amiable a fellow to play a convincing action star, giving all indication that his firearms are actually cap guns. As Alex’s childhood best friend-turned-partner Tommy, Edward Burns’ passionless crime scene banter with Perry is comprised of a tangle of clichés, tossing lazy alley-oops for his partner to slam home and sound like the genius he supposedly is. Burns has clearly found the most effortless way to finance his micro-indie projects, but a little effort would be nice.
Elsewhere, Cicely Tyson embarrasses herself in full overbearing mother mode while John C. McGinley’s police chief is too eloquent for his own good, rattling off comically unflappable departmentese in life-threatening situations. (However, his “Rocket!!!” joins Taken 2’s “I just shot some guy!” as one of the year’s best lines.) Then there’s a bloated and blathering Jean Reno as a French businessman targeted by The Butcher, either on drugs, auditioning to take over for Steve Martin in the Pink Panther franchise, or both. Whether or not these typically dependable performers are dumbing down their skills to make Perry feel at home remains to be seen, but they’re so uniformly awful that collusion certainly seems plausible.
As Alex Cross takes one unsurprising turn after another, each tidbit falling precisely into place, the film becomes increasingly more of a joke. A bubble-wrapped action film in which everything comes far too easy and nothing matters, it’s a misstep for all involved and should only be seen for its unintentional yuks. With 17 Alex Cross novels and a new one written annually, however, we may not have seen the last of this ensemble, and that’s nothing to laugh about.
Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity.
Alex Cross is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
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