I’m pretty much in shock at what I saw while watching ‘Alex Cross’. There are a ton of very weird decisions and moments contained within, and just about every one of them works toward making this film one of the very worst of the year so far. Tremendously lackluster during its best moments and downright inept during its lowest, director Rob Cohen and writers Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson would be doing character assassination if this character had any real following cinematically. The scary thing is that they supposedly jettisoned most of the novel they originally were working from in exchange for what’s basically an original script outside of a plot development or two, so that implies that they thought this story was the better one to tell. Oh my. Cohen’s direction is pretty bad, but the script is even worse. This clearly set star Tyler Perry up for failure, and while he’s certainly not good, he’s among the least of the film’s many problems, something that goes for the entire cast.
In some ways this is the origin story of detective Alex Cross, the genus forensic psychologist and criminal investigator that was previously played a few times by Morgan Freeman, though mostly it’s just a reboot of the character. Here, Alex Cross (Perry) is a detective in Detroit, working in tandem with his partner and lifelong friend Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), as well as Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols). At home, Cross has a loving wife named Maria (Carmen Ejogo), two small children (Yara and Sayeed Shahidi) and his mother (Cicely Tyson) all under one roof. Things couldn’t be better, especially with Maria now expecting another child, though once he and his team begin pursuing a killer that’s been dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox), Cross will soon see his life take a turn for the worse. The killer is ruthless, incredibly talented, and seemingly able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. What was once just a routine investigation will quickly become personal he’ll be willing to risk it all to stop Picasso. Yup, the plot is that standard and unoriginal. That wouldn’t even be a huge problem if it was done in a way that even remotely resembled competency. Alas, that wasn’t to be here with this flick.
Acting in a role far different from the ones he usually directs himself in, Tyler Perry is very mediocre as an action hero. He’s not awful, but he’s forgettable in all the ways you don’t want your hero to be. Some of these issues are due to the asinine script, but some are just plain because of his limited range as an actor. Perry cuts an impressive figure, but there’s supposed to be more to this role than just that and he’s not particularly up to the task. I’m not too sure what Matthew Fox is trying to do as the villain here, but he certainly went the extra mile losing a ton of weight for the role. Fox randomly seems to address the camera and audience directly at times, and that’s among the least weird things that he’s doing. He’s chewing the scenery, that’s for sure. Edward Burns is collecting a paycheck as Perry’s sidekick and shows it, but if this is how he’s able to keep making his own films then I’ll give him a pass here. The likes of John C. McGinley, Jean Reno, and young Yara Shahidi are wasted in small parts, while the rest of the cast includes the likes of Giancarlo Esposito, Cicely Tyson, Carmen Ejogo, and Sayeed Shahidi, none of whom leave an impression. The acting is average at best, but in a film as bas as this one, that’s more or less a compliment.
Director Rob Cohen just plain doesn’t know how to shoot action scenes. Here he ruins an already bad climax by filming it and framing it so ineptly that you just have to wait for it to be over to find out who won. He shakes the camera in place of actually using it properly. He doesn’t care about pacing, logic, or character development, just getting to the end of the shoot and calling it a day it seems. Cohen has never been a particularly good filmmaker, but he’s at his worst here. It certainly doesn’t help matters that the script by Mark Moss and Kerry Williamson is among the 5 worst to reach screens this year, be it original or adapted. Nothing makes sense and no one seems to care. There are two major characters who die by the midway point, but only one is ever addressed going forward. It’s just bizarrely bad stuff on all ends.
‘Alex Cross’ can literally cross itself off of the “to see” lists of any discerning viewer when it opens this weekend, at least if I have anything to say about it. Aside from the mocking laughter that I shared with my fellow critics at a press screening, there’s no joy to be had here. We made the best of it for free, but you shouldn’t have to pay to sit through this crap. It’s one of the worst things I’ve seen all year and should be promptly forgotten about if possible. ‘Alex Cross’ just plain sucks.
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Tags: Carmen Ejogo, Ed Burns, Edward Burns, Giancarlo Esposito, Jean Reno, John C. McGinley, Kerry Williamson, Marc Moss, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Rob Cohen, Tyler Perry, Yara Shahidi