For as much financial success as Tyler Perry has made in film, very little has to do with his ability as an actor — at least when he’s not in drag. So casting him as James Patterson’s Dr. Alex Cross — a character made famous in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) by Morgan Freeman (and which had originally been pegged for Idris Elba) — is more than just a bit confusing. The idea with Rob Cohen’s plainly titled Alex Cross isn’t just to launch a new film franchise, but to truly test Perry’s sway outside the man’s normal territory of faith-tinged potboilers. After a weak opening weekend, a lot of the blame will likely fall on Perry. However, while he lacks the gravitas or ability to carry such a broken film, this is really a project that was doomed from the start.
Instead of going the taut-thriller route of the Freeman films, we get an action picture traipsing around as a crime flick. Director Cohen — whose career consists of a slew of crapfests like Stealth (2005) and xXx (2002) — is saddled with a script full of corny dialogue and a meandering, often downright dumb plot, but has no clue how to make it palatable. Honestly, the film holds itself together for a while. Its story — involving the Sherlock Holmes-like Cross hunting down a sadistic professional killer (Matthew Fox) — at least makes sense. Also there’s genuinely surprising lengths that the film is willing to go to create the sense that literally no character is safe. Perry even holds his own, though Alex Cross — at this point — demands little in the way of heavy lifting, fitting neatly inside the bounds of any number of TV police procedurals.
The problems arise when Alex Cross slips into revenge flick mode, since Perry simply cannot pull off the gruff tough guy stuff. Watching him in a wife-beater tank top, sawing off the end of a shotgun in his basement is silly, while watching him get all handsy with criminals and calling them “maggots” is laughable, and his big climactic fight scene with Fox would be hilarious if Cohen had any idea how to shoot a coherent action sequence. But so much of this movie just isn’t Perry’s fault. The plot slowly falls apart into a heap of unexplained, far-fetched absurdity. There’s a catastrophic failure in the entire casting process. Perry shouldn’t be playing a rough and tumble cop. Ed Burns shouldn’t be the wise-cracking sidekick. And Fox — despite a game attempt — isn’t at the top of the list to play spindly, wild-eyed, crazed killers. Alex Cross, when all is said and done, is less a movie, and more a cavalcade of poor decisions on every level. Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande