ALEX CROSS – The Review
Some actors just weren’t born to play an action hero. Some look silly in a fight. Some sound ridiculous acting tough. He may have taken cross-dressing to successful heights, but Tyler Perry looks less foolish in a dress than he does in the action scenes of the new thriller ALEX CROSS. It’s a prequel to a pair of Washington, D.C.-set thrillers that starred Morgan Freeman as Cross; ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2001) and KISS THE GIRLS (1997). The new film is something of an origin story, recounting the events that ultimately drove the clever forensic psychologist, to move to D.C. from Detroit. The new film finds Detective Cross a likeable family man, living with his wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo – an actress I liked in SPARKLE also good here) and feisty mother played by Jamie Farr (Kidding ! – Cicely Tyson). Cross’ boyhood friend and partner is Thomas Kane (Edward Burns), who is engaged to fellow detective, Monica (Rachel Nichols). The three are on the hunt for a nameless hired killer (Matthew Fox) who seems to be targeting Detroit’s most powerful business men. But when they foil one of his hits, the killer gets his revenge by slaughtering both Monica and the pregnant Maria (sorry if this review is a tad spoileriffic, but the movie’s stupid predictable). After about five minutes of grieving his dead wife and baby (we never see Kane mourn), Alex and Kane are charged with protecting the killer’s next target, a French fat-cat named Giles played by Jean Reno.
It’s likely that a sizeable portion of the audience for ALEX CROSS won’t be there because of the director or the subject matter but because Tyler Perry has delighted them for so many years with his wildly popular Madea character (DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMEN, MEDEA GOES TO JAIL, MEDEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY etc). But without the pendulous bosom, glossy fright wig, and sass, Perry seems adrift. He’s a big guy at 6’4″ (and obviously hasn’t missed many meals) but he has that big black Baby Huey face that he uses here to sneer and growl and squint like he’s trying so hard to shed Medea’s skin right before our eyes and reveal his inner Bruce Willis. There are so many close-ups of him failing to emote, such as the scene where he cradles his dying wife and can’t muster more than an unconvincing pout that you feel bad that he’s so out of his league. Some of the action scenes are in slo-mo to disguise the fact Perry is more convincing swinging a purse than throwing a punch. ALEX CROSS is rated PG-13 so Mr. Perry’s fan base can take the whole family to see a movie that opens with a serial killer tying a negligee-clad beauty to a bed and torturing her to death by slicing her fingers off one by one. The bloody aftermath is carefully cut around but the film doesn’t hesitate to show a pregnant woman shot dead in the chest.
As a thriller ALEX CROSS is a serviceable at best and had it starred someone less bankable like Cuba Gooding Jr., it would have gone straight to Red Box. Perry’s hired himself a competent action director in Rob Cohen (FAST AND THE FURIOUS, XXX) who keeps the proceedings humming along at a decent pace but the film is visually muddy and seems unfinished, going from set-up to climax with a middle section missing. Who is this killer, dubbed Picasso because of his talent for creating abstract charcoal drawings that provide clues to his next target when creased like an old Mad Magazine fold-in? And since he’s introduced accepting $3 million for his services, why would he even want to leave clues in the first place? He’s played scary by Scott Wolf, all sinew and ice, but he appears so arbitrarily it’s like he’s a temp worker in for the day. But lemme tell you this guy is tough! His first target is a woman he must get alone in her home which is guarded by heavily-armed goons. He gets in shape for this stealth infiltration by fighting in a MMA cage match with the current champ, seducing his impressed prey. It’s the type of movie that ends with a long-winded explanation by the real villain, “Mr Big” summarizing who was doing exactly what and why. At the end Cross asks him “Who was that psycho?” to which the response is “I’m not sure, we got him on the open market!”…. Well, that explains it!
Someone thought Perry and his lumbering frame would be a good fit for this role and he’s B.O. enough to justify a theatrical release and while he’s certainly entitled to his shot as an action star, a scowl and black trench coat do not an action hero make. ALEX CROSS is a 1-star bad movie but parts of it are just fun-bad enough for me to add an extra star.
2 of 5 Stars