A classic misfire if there ever was one, Rob Cohen’s Alex Cross is intended to reboot the series based on the character made popular by James Patterson’s novels, previously played in two movies starring Morgan Freeman back in the ’90s. That comedy actor Tyler Perry (creator and star of the mega-popular Madea franchise) was cast in the role was the first of many missteps resulting in an exercise in unintentional silliness.
At one point forensic psychologist/super-cop Cross states “Don’t overthink it. I’m just looking for a bad guy.”, which pretty much sums up the plot (or lack thereof) in a nutshell: A (shudder) prequel loosely based on Patterson’s novel Cross, it focuses on the detective-shrink as he heads up a major crimes division for the Detroit PD, working with teammates Thomas Kane (Ed Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols). They quickly cross paths with a psychotic assassin (Matthew Fox) who’s working his way down a hit list of rich businessmen and women; the case quickly turns personal, and Cross and Kane quickly exact justice (read: bloody retribution). Yet, for all that speediness of plot, it adds up to the longest 90 minutes you’re likely to sit through, punctuated by what has to be a record amount of crass product placement courtesy of Cadillac.
The movie’s problems — and it has a lot of them — stem from two main sources: First, director Rob Cohen cuts a lot of corners, relying on poorly choreographed action and flashy, over-stylized camerawork that only draws more attention to the limp narrative. Second, Perry is too far out of is element as a dramatic action hero to anchor the movie. (He holds a shotgun as if it were a freshly stunned eel, and his moments of psychological insight consist of him staring blankly into space while delivering lines that wouldn’t have made the grade in a lesser episode of Criminal Minds. He’s a non-entity, and the rest of the cast — which includes Cicely Tyson, Giancarlo Espisito, John C. McGinley, and Jean Reno — is shamefully saddled with clichéd dialogue and banal character development.
Fox is the only one involved who seems committed to his role, and he overcompensates by delivering a flamboyant villain too big for this rinky dink production, a hammy bug-eyed menace who seems to have escaped from another, possibly more entertaining schlock film. But hey, plans for a sequel have already been announced, so that’s good news…