[Review] – Alex Cross

30 Oct

Title: Alex Cross
Year: 2012
Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, based on the novel by James Patterson
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno, Giancarlo Esposito
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity
Runtime: 101 min
IMDb Rating: 4.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%
Metacritic: 30

Alex Cross is a character that has appeared in a bunch of novels from James Patterson (the 20th book headlined by the character is set for release next year), he’s one of those thriller-crime authors who somehow finds a way of releasing a book every month (what that says about their quality, I’ll leave for you to easily decipher). The character was first brought to the screen in 1997’s Kiss the Girls, with Morgan Freeman playing him, and then that one got a sequel, Along Came a Spider. Both of those films, by the way, weren’t particularly good, the typical thriller that had people doing impossible stuff in impossible situations (though, for some reason, I remember having seen Along Came a Spider a bunch of times as a kid), so, yeah, a reboot wasn’t necessarily something people were clamoring for.

However, then I heard something that got me really looking forward to seeing this one. Idris Elba was cast in the titular role. Mr. Elba is one of those actors who I seriously need to see become a big star, because he genuinely deserves it. His Golden Globe-winning role on the BBC‘s terrific Luther is probably the best showcase for his talents, and he’s making the transition to Hollywood with supporting turns in Thor and Prometheus (as well as a turn in Guillermo Del Toro‘s upcoming Pacific Rim) but a headlining role in a potential franchise like this would be biggest chance for him. A few months after he got the gig, however, Tyler Perry replaced him.

Yes, that Tyler Perry. The Tyler Perry, the guy you associate with a cross-dressing grandmother in his comedic turns and melodramatic schmaltz in his dramatic performances. When I review Mr. Perry’s films I always make a point to note that I’m as far removed from his target audience (middle-aged African American women) as you can get, but I just don’t think he’s all that good, though I very much respect the tremendous empire he’s built for himself. He, much like Mr. Patterson, is the entertainer that always has something for his fans to check out, directing a couple of films a year like it was nothing. This year he’s had Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, which I gave a C- to, and Madea’s Witness Protection, which I stamped with a D. Alex Cross is actually the worst of the three.

Now, I guess it’s important to note that (mercifully) this isn’t called Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross, he’s only the star here and not to be seen under the directing or writing credits for the film, but, then again, it’s not like he could have done much worse. This is a genuinely bad movie. The direction, by Rob Cohen (who’s xXx was one of those films I happened to see a lot on TV as a kid) is so absolutely messy, and the script, from Marc Moss (who’s only other writing credit was Along Came a Spider) and Kerry Williamson (who makes her writing debut here) shows their inexperience in how absolutely lazy and dumb it is.

The titular character is a talented homicide detective/psychologist who gets involved in an intense cat-and-mouse game with the latest guy he’s tasked with capturing, a ridiculous psycho killer called Picasso played by Lost‘s Matthew Fox. By the way, Mr. Fox is the best thing about this movie. Not because he’s good, because he’s not, but this guy just seriously committed to this role in some crazy ways, he honestly looked crazy and just got super beefed up and, yeah, shame he put so much effort into a film no one else seemed to take seriously.

Mr. Perry, it must be said, also tries his darndest to make this work, to try and establish himself as an action star who can open a film on the strengths of something he didn’t produce to please the one audience he’s been aiming for his whole life. Here he shows his limitations as a performer that he does his best to mask in the films he directs and writes himself. Though the script also didn’t do him any favors, this really does classify as one of my least favorite screenplays of the year, it’s just so absolutely graceless and coarse that, when paired with the visually ugly direction of Mr. Cohen, you don’t really care a thing about what the performers do.

It may look as though I’m being overly mean and critical of this film, and maybe I am, it’s just that I was kind of pissed about this thing. Not only because it was a tremendous waste of my time and money, and of the time and money of those who made it, but also because I genuinely believe the whole cat-and-mouse action-thriller genre that was so popular a decade and half ago should come back and this one just absolutely kills my case for it. This is just incompetent filmmaking, really, absolutely careless and the sort of film you’ll most likely be laughing at before the end credits roll, if you’re not sound asleep by then.

I don’t want to see as though I’m just a Tyler Perry hater here. Because I’m not, honestly, I respect the man even if I don’t find him particularly talented, and I respect that a very specific demographic at least likes his stuff. But to make these films work you need to have something that Morgan Freeman before him had and that Idris Elba instead of him would’ve had and that is the skill to really get into a character and no matter how absolutely crappy the movie surrounding your performance be able to lift it up and make it all work anyhow into at least a mediocre-but-not-quite-horrible affair.

This is just an absolutely boring movie that I don’t recommend on any level whatsoever, one that wastes the talents of some really talented people (Jean Reno and Giancarlo Esposito have small roles here) and that wastes your time without apologizing for it. Tyler Perry fails at proving that he can do more outside his wheelhouse (hey, maybe this would have worked with Madea in the lead role!) and, I’m sad to report, a sequel for this is already in the works, though maybe someone will kill off that idea when they see the disappointing box office receipts. The one thing that I’m thankful for about this film is the fact that Idris Elba didn’t have to make it, it didn’t deserve him.

Grade: D-


One Response to “[Review] – Alex Cross”

  1. CMrok93 November 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Good review. It’s typical cop-movie, that doesn’t do much with it’s plot or it’s talent involved, it just meanders along an obvious, conventional line.

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