‘Alex Cross’ (2012) Movie Review


Tyler Perry in Alex Cross

Tyler Perry in Alex Cross
Photo: Summit Entertainment

After about 10 minutes of Alex Cross you realize you’ve just watched ten minutes that could have been cut from the film. We’re introduced to the title character, detective (and doctor) Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and his team — Tommy (Ed Burns) and Monica (Rachel Nichols) — in a routine foot chase as a means of getting to know the generic group dynamic. This is followed by an introduction to the film’s villain (Matthew Fox) whose been hired to carry out a series of high-profile killings, the first of which he carries out by worming his way into an underground boxing match as a means of capturing the attention of a young female we’ll soon come to know as his first victim.

It’s at this point Alex Cross could have actually kicked in. To do so would have introduced us to the film’s killer, knowing nothing about him other than the fact he’s a psychopath that gets off on pain. Over the course of the film, Cross attempts to psycho-analyze the nut in a couple of laughable phone conversations and one of the worst monologues you’re likely to see on the big screen. But, in reality, we actually learn nothing more about the character despite endless exposition and, as Fox says, “psycho-babble”.

To that point, Fox’s character tends to talk way too much, revealing nothing but cliche bad guy banter such as “I’m going to enjoy this,” “You have a very pretty wife,” “Do you like it? I can’t have that” and “Inflicting pain is part of my true calling.” Yeah, we get it, you’re not a nice guy. Oddly enough, while he does tranquilize his victims and then kill them, his so-called torture methods are amateur hour when compared to true onscreen psychos such as Seven‘s John Doe and Hannibal Lecter. It’s one thing to talk about what kind of bad ass you are and a completely other thing to carry it out with quiet cruelty.

This, however, is the downfall of Alex Cross, a film about talking about what, why, how, when, where you’re going to do what you’re going to do rather than just doing it. The killer leaves clues in charcoal paintings of all things and is dubbed Picasso. Original, I know.

Cross and his team of misfits follow the clues, have ridiculous conversations with front desk goons and get in arguments with clueless marks shouting at the top of their lungs, “This place is impenetrable you idiot!” Okay, sorry, didn’t know we were in a live-action version of Team America. We are just here to save you from the killer that can somehow maneuver his way in and out of your building as if he’s David Copperfield.

Alex Cross is by far one of the worst written, directed and edited films I have seen in a long time. Scenes are dropped into the film out of nowhere as the characters are reduced to reading lines we’ve heard in a countless number of detective films and television shows, with Ed Burns getting the brunt of the expository comments. “Get in his head, where would you be if you were him?” and “One of these days I’d like you to be wrong… because it’s getting annoying.” He’ll regret that last one.

Curiously, the trailers boast the film as being from screenwriters Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss, the latter of which is the only one to have ever written a screenplay before and that was 2001’s Along Came a Spider, another film centered on James Patterson’s fictional Alex Cross character that effectively ended Morgan Freeman’s turn as the character after two films.

Now, had I written this script, I would have taken my name off of it. Then again, perhaps that’s the goal of the marketing, as if Summit is saying, “Don’t blame us, these are the people responsible for this drivel.” And, to be fair, Williamson and Moss are only part of the problem. Director Rob Cohen should be revoked of his director license.

2005 was a bad year for movies and by the time Rob Cohen’s Stealth hit theaters in July, I was already a bit woozy. Stealth turned out to be something of a knock-out punch that had me doubting whether I wanted to continue this line of work. I haven’t forgotten it ever since. Cohen followed Stealth with the abysmal The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor as studios can’t seem but help themselves and continue to hand this guy a camera and a clapper. I will say this, he certainly knows how to give his sponsors a lot of face time.

One of the worst scenes in Alex Cross involves Giancarlo Esposito as Daramus Holiday, a Detroit gangster. Outside of some pointlessly forced history behind him and Cross, Cross goes to meet him for a chit-chat, looking for some info. The scene is set in Holiday’s vintage car dealership and instead of just finishing the conversation where they are, Daramus invites him to finish their chat in the back seat of one of his cars. Cross accepts. Daramus opens the door, and wouldn’t you know it, reflected in the window is the word “Cadillac” and the Cadillac logo. As if the decision to get in the back seat of a car inside a dealership wasn’t stupid enough, they turn it into one of the hundreds of moments where they shill for the car company. I’m still trying to figure out if this was worse than the time Cross declines food saying, “We already had McDonald’s,” but I’m not sure it really matters.

The blame for this film can be placed on the shoulders of many, from the script that plays like an outline that needed about five more rewrites, to Cohen’s pointless staging, to Ricardo Della Rosa‘s key lights at the end of sewer tunnels, to John Debney‘s derivative score and the decision by all to star in this mess. It’s so bad that when John C. McGinley shows up as police captain people in my audience actually laughed. As for Tyler Perry, I haven’t seen any of his films outside of his bit role in Star Trek, so not even his cross-dressing efforts as Madea clouded my vision with this one. It is simply bad from all sides and this idea they are already working on a sequel couldn’t be funnier as I can’t even imagine Perry devotees will want to see more of this.