As soon as most of us heard that Tyler Perry would be playing James Patterson’s pivotal character in an Alex Cross reboot we filed that straight into the ‘movies that will suck’ pile. And rightly so. Alex Cross manages to be one of 2012’s worst films. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe a film whose trailer features so much dubstep might actually be bad. But director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Stealth) could have actually done with some more wub-wub-wub instead of the dumb-dumb-dumb he supplied. The film serves as an origins story for Dr. Alex Cross – a skilled homicide detective who’s pushed to the moral and physical limit as he hunts a ruthless serial killer nicknamed Picasso (Matthew Fox) because he, ah, likes to draw with charcoal at crime scenes. As you do. The first and biggest problem is that Alex Cross as a character is supposed to be criminological genius. In Patterson’s series of best-selling novels he’s one of the greatest minds working in the field. This is illustrated constantly by feats of problem-solving, impressive investigation skills and general bad-assness. In the film, however, we’re constantly told how great Alex Cross is as a detective. As Edward Burns character absurdly describes: “He can tell you’ve had scrambled eggs for breakfast from 100 yards away.” Frankly, that’s the kind of breakfast deduction skills you want in a man leading a specialist unit. Yet we never actually see Alex Cross do anything worthy of this reputation. Instead he’s plodding along, always one step behind, and generally looking flummoxed.
The casting is a major issue. Tyler Perry has ‘something’ as a comedian, but as an actor? He’s just plain bad. When shown a particularly brutal picture of a mutilated colleague he’s supposed to show fear, disgust, anger. Instead he looks as if he’s concentrating really hard on doing a poo. Perhaps he would have been more comfortable playing the Madea-esque character of Alex Cross’ Nana Mama (who sincerely has no place in the film). Perry is no Morgan Freeman, the first actor to play Cross in Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider. Namely, his physicality is all wrong. As he huffs and puffs his way through the action scenes the audience’s biggest concern for Perry’s Alex Cross is that he’ll have a heart attack before he solves the crime. Add to that a miscast Jean “no women, no kids” Reno as a French billionaire who looks as if he’s been eating at the same catering truck as Perry.
The person you feel most sorry for in all this? Mr Matthew Fox who – sensing the opportunity to play a career-defining villain – I imagine spent many dinnerless nights watching Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise. He’s the most interesting character in the film, yet only because the others are lifeless. He’s reptilian and unhinged, but for the most part Fox invokes visions of a hungry triathlete rather than a serial killer specialising in pain. Also, bike shorts as a wardrobe choice? What. The. Fox.
There are so many things wrong with Alex Cross pointing them out feels like picking on a crippled puppy. With rabies. The score has been plucked straight from a 90s police serial. The camera work is blurry, frustrating and in some places (most likely) shot on an iPhone. The Schapelle Corby-esque ending is genuinely befuddling. There’s also a vaguely sexist undertone with all of the female characters either being victims or tools used to advance the motivations of the men.
Like a teenager pretending to like My Chemical Romance while secretly listening to Taylor Swift in their bedroom, Alex Cross has no idea what it wants to be. It fails to stumble into the bad-enough-to-be-enjoyable category.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Jean Reno
Alex Cross is released in Australia on the 1st of November 2012