Genre: Crime/Mystery/Drama Director: Rob Cohen Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Jean Reno, Rachel Nichols, Giancarlo Esposito, John C. McGinley, Cicely Tyson, Chad Lindberg, Carmen Ejogo Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins Rating: NC16 (Violence and Sexual Scene) Released By: Cathay-Keris Films Official Website: -
Opening Day: 29 November 2012
Synopsis: After Washington DC detective Alex Cross is told that a family member has been murdered, he vows to track down the killer. He soon discovers that she was not his first victim and that things are not what they seem.
‘Alex Cross’ was supposed to do two things – one, relaunch the film franchise of the popular series of detective novels by James Patterson that had the titular character as the protagonist; and two, re-establish Tyler Perry as a serious dramatic actor outside of his ‘Madea’ films. By the end of director Rob Cohen’s film however, this cop thriller would probably have done neither – though the fault is neither Perry’s nor the source novel ‘Cross’ on which the movie is only purportedly based.
First things first, you probably should know why the pudgy yet imposingly scaled Perry got the leading role – after all, he doesn’t possess the stateliness of say Morgan Freeman (who played the last screen incarnation of the Alex Cross character in ‘Along Came A Spider’ and ‘Kiss the Girls’) nor the athleticism of probably half the African-American actors out there. But the stage actor known for his plays proved over the last five years that he is easily one of the few African-American actors who can open a film on his own – hence the decision for him to headline this franchise reboot.
Out of his signature drag character’s wig and sensible shoes, Perry acquits himself reasonably well enough as the forensic psychologist cum homicide detective. Earnest and likeable, he wins you over enough during the sweet emotional scenes at the beginning with his wife Maria (Carmen Ejojo), righteous mother ‘Nana’ (Cicely Tyson) and two young kids to fill you with ire when Maria is killed. His subsequent transformation into a ‘cop in a rage’ is also surprisingly convincing – and even manages to prove himself in the few scenes his character has to exercise his brawn rather than his brains.
Pity then that his screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson do him a disservice by taking too much creative liberties with Patterson’s story, turning a straight-up cop story into a revenge melodrama. So while the villain is still a sadistic killer that goes occasionally by the name of ‘The Butcher’, he is more often known as Picasso (played by Matthew Fox of ‘Lost’), a rogue ex-military type that now works as an assassin for hire and has an odd penchant for leaving clues in the form of charcoal drawings on paper. The problem isn’t so much how Picasso has been made to be, but in the intertwining of Cross’ and Picasso’s characters.
Midway through the movie, Picasso gets pissed at Cross’ and his partner Tommy Kane’s (Edward Burns) interference, so he assassinates Maria and tortures Tommy’s girlfriend Alison (Rachel Nichols) to death. That is supposed to mark a turning point for the story, where both Cross and Kane put aside their badges and pursue Picasso in vengeful vigilante style. Notwithstanding that Cross was never meant to be the kind of hero that saws off a shotgun and goes after Picasso outside the law, what becomes of Cross is too mild as a cop on fire and yet too impulsive to be the Cross whom fans of the books have come to love.
In contrast to Cross’ character dilemma, Picasso is much more intriguingly sketched out – though the lack of details of his past is a frustrating omission. With feral intensity, the physically transformed Fox, complete with shaved head and sinewy physique, invests much more in his character than the script does, and is always riveting to watch. Faint-hearted viewers should take note that the murders do get surprisingly grisly, especially when coupled with the images of torture. Perry’s warm demeanour and Fox’s cold-hearted nature complement each other perfectly – and one only hoped that their cat and mouse game could be more exciting.
A veteran of action movies like ‘Fast and Furious’ and ‘xXx’, Cohen does his movie no favours by shooting the climax in close-ups with shakycam, so much so that what thrills which could be had are significantly diminished. More successful is an earlier sequence that sees Picasso staging an assassination attempt atop a commuter train, harking back to the type of big action that Cohen is probably more comfortable with. Too much dialogue has obviously dulled the man, and the scenes with exposition move too languidly that they undercut the tension that is meant to fill the movie.
Yet despite its numerous flaws, not all is lost – there is still a modicum of excitement generated from the cop-killer hunt; both Perry and Fox are solid in their respective roles; and the action in parts is moderately rousing. Still this prequel to Cross’ D.C. days – hence the Detroit locale in which the movie is based – needs to be more in order to launch a new Alex Cross franchise or for that matter a Tyler Perry one. As it is, it ain’t nearly smart nor intriguing enough to be both – but you’d probably already guessed as much from a movie that uses as cheesy a tagline as ‘don’t ever cross Alex Cross’.
(Not quite the franchise starter it is meant to be, this Alex Cross reboot is just serviceable despite a good turn by Tyler Perry and an even more memorable villainous performance by Matthew Fox)