By taking on the action role of super detective Alex Cross, Tyler Perry obviously wishes to assert himself as more than an actor in woman's clothing. But despite his physically imposing stature, the good-natured Perry is miscast in a role that requires the occasional butt kicking, something he can't do in a believable manner. Even worse, as an actor he elicits all the charisma of a wet mop, with a similar emotional range.
Facing a wrenching crisis as someone dies in his arms, Perry as Cross mutters matter of factly, "Someone call 9-1-1. Call 9-1-1." Note the lack of exclamation point at the end of his directive, as if he's saying, "Don't anyone put themselves out to call for help, but if you have the time and your cell phone handy I'd very much appreciate it, seeing as how someone is dying."
Now juxtapose Perry's flat-lined performance with that of Matthew Fox, who is nothing but a string of exclamation points on screen. Like Perry, Fox is no doubt looking to break free from the shackles of his best-known role, the good Dr. Jack Shephard on Lost. Alex Cross won't help his cause, either.
Fox is deliriously over the top as the chief villain Michael "The Butcher" Sullivan, a former ex-military agent turned assassin for hire who takes time out from his killings to participate in an underground Detroit MMA cage fight. So much for keeping a low profile. This maniacal and unhinged antagonist is meant to bring a jolt of energy and life into the otherwise DOA thriller, but it's swapping between a comically bad and a comically bland performance.
Their ho-hum actioner is based on a novel in James Patterson's popular series, which previously spawned two superior Cross films starring Morgan Freeman; though this latest incarnation essentially stands on its own as an introduction to the character and his world.
Patterson certainly provided a sturdy template for a good thriller.
Edward Burns, right, and Tyler Perry in a scene from "Alex Cross."
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Cross is a brilliant detective and forensic psychologist with the Detroit Police Department — changed from the novels' D.C. location. Cross is happily married, has two children, with a third on the way. Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) is a fellow detective and Cross' best friend since junior high school. Also part of their detective team is Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), who happens to be sleeping with Tommy. It's Tommy who confides in Alex that he may be in love with Monica. This revelation is worth noting only because it's worth almost nothing in terms of dramatic payoff after her character is brutally murdered by The Butcher. In fact, her death brings one mention through the remainder of the film. This begs the question: If the filmmakers didn't care about Monica's death, then why should we?
Director Rob Cohen is known best for action films The Fast and the Furious and xXx, but his uninspiring work behind the camera in Alex Cross implies he's forgotten almost everything he learned to this point — or simply didn't care. Meanwhile, the script by Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss serves up head-scratching leaps of logic, including Cross going rogue to get his revenge against The Butcher, and subsequently breaking into the evidence room of the Detroit Police Department and then knocking out and tying up a fellow cop on duty. Given Cross also wears the badge, why can't he find another way to take the evidence — especially given his high intellect — without injuring one of his own?
Thrown into this mess are Jean Reno and John C. McGinley. Reno plays wealthy Frenchmen Leon Mercier, the ultimate target of The Butcher; Mercier's bigger connection to The Butcher is painfully obvious given that the film's lazy plot by numbers doesn't bother to introduce us to any other potential masterminds. And McGinley plays the incompetent and stubborn cop, so you know he must be the police chief.
Directed by Rob Cohen. Written by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, based on the James Patterson novel. A Summit release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity. Running time: 105 minutes.
Critic’s Rating *
Alex Cross . . . . . . . . . Tyler Perry
The Butcher . . . . . . ....Matthew Fox
Monica . . . . . . . . .......Rachel Nichols
Leon . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jean Reno
Tommy . . . . . . . . . .....Edward Burns
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.