Before he aged, like a fine wine, into the mellow-voiced FBI criminal profiler of James Patterson’s successful thriller series, Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) was a humble homicide detective, working a doctorate in psychology on the side and doing the good cop, bad city thing in dingy old Detroit. When a high-profile businesswoman is tortured to death, Cross and his rag-tag team of gun-slinging boffins investigate, quickly uncovering an industrial espionage conspiracy and drawing the ire of a psychotic killer, Picasso (Matthew Fox), who intends to make them part of his latest masterpiece...
‘Alex Cross’, a kind of non-literal/canon/reboot/prequel to the unremarkable but fondly remembered Morgan Freeman thrillers ‘Kiss The Girls’ (1997) and ‘Along Came A Spider’ (2001), is a complete train wreck. Perry, most often seen sporting a blouse and wig in his role as the elderly Madea, is hamstrung by a frustratingly trite and incoherent screenplay, which reduces detective work and deductive reasoning to a sub-‘CSI: Miami’ level of stupidity, and the profession of criminal psychology to catchphrases of cartoonish psychobabble. That Perry’s performance isn’t a total waste of time is probably a testament to his natural charisma, more than any conscious acting choice in relation to the material.
Lacking any semblance of internal structure, plot points, logic, or even character motivations, Matthew Fox appears embarrassingly overcommitted to his role – his radical physical transformation unjustified by the sheer stupidity of the entire enterprise. His wide-eyed, “Look-at-me-Ma, I’m-acting” performance as the superfluously convoluted killer is shockingly bad; it’s hard to imagine a director could tolerate it for more than a few takes, let alone encourage it for an entire film. In fact, it’s disheartening to see how many good actors pop up in this movie that are not only dialling in performances, but also actively attempting (misguidedly) to make them better.
The whip-pans and crash-zooms of ‘The Fast And The Furious’ and ‘xXx’ have clearly damaged director Rob Cohen’s brain, as he fails to photograph even a simple dialogue exchange without making a total technical mess of himself (What was that sudden shift to digital video? Couldn’t they fit a HD cam inside the car?). The positioning and movement of his camera is truly baffling at times, and by the time the action scenes roll around, you’ll be hard pressed to make spatial or literal sense of the action occurring on screen.
Lacking any semblance of internal structure, plot points, logic, or even character motivations, Matthew Fox appears embarrassingly overcommitted to his role.
Clearly failing as a form of higher art, ‘Alex Cross’ can’t even muster the energy to satisfy as basic entertainment; at a refreshingly brisk one hundred minutes, the film has such a flimsy story that it sags horrifically for long stretches at a time. The grimness of it all results in unintended laughter, while the preposterous nature of the denouement (via Skype!) is insulting, not just in its clumsy execution, but in its utterly bonkers morality.
Aside from a morbid fixation on racial cliché (so pervasive, in fact, it feels almost satirically intended on a level the film can’t even comprehend) and the joy that implicitly comes from watching skilled people make idiots of themselves, ‘Alex Cross’ is a series of bad performances, terrible storytelling, and a total waste of time.