The good news is that Tyler Perry has temporarily exchanged his trademark frumpy ‘Madea’ gowns for masculine guns in his latest trite conventional crime caper ‘Alex Cross’. However, the bad news is that Perry’s cinematic transition from garrulous cross-dresser to Cross crime-stopper is met with less than a marginal reception.
Sure, many critics have criticised Perry for playing it safe as he regularly rode the convenient coattails of his noted southern gun-toting grandma with the cheeky defiant demeanor in the aforementioned ‘Madea’ movie franchise that has secured the filmmaker’s heralded spiritual following for many years on the big screen. Now Perry is ready to branch out, once again, beyond the gray wig, oversized glasses, fat suit and sassy slapstick into a law enforcing expert that supposedly means business.
Unfortunately for Perry, ‘Alex Cross’ is a dismissive and paint-by-the-numbers crime thriller that stagnates in familiarity with the typical and tired platitudes of a buddy cop/serial killer revenge actioner that has all the charm of a grainy mug shot. It certainly does not help the cause that Perry is inheriting best-selling author James Patterson’s highly regarded literary characterisation from the iconic Oscar-winning Morgan Freeman who played the role so refined and gleefully stoic in Patterson suspenseful dandies such as ‘Along Came A Spider’ and ‘Kiss The Girls’. Tellingly, Perry seems lost without ‘Madea’s flowery dresses and even more befuddled filling Freeman’s unforgettable shoes in portraying the cunning government profiler Dr. Alex Cross.
Director Rob Cohen (‘XXX’, ‘The Fast And The Furious’) and screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson choppily serve up Perry’s take of mastermind Detroit detective Alex Cross as a devoted family man and obsessed seeker of a deranged whackjob (is there any other kind of these colourful deviants?). There is nothing original or distinctively stimulating here in Cohen’s tepid narrative that audiences have not witnessed before. The novelty of Perry awkwardly parading around with a stand-by shotgun and donning a stylish long overcoat while demonstrating some synthetic urban rage feels awfully forced. Indeed, this is badass Samuel L. Jackson territory and not for the clunky Perry as his flaccid forensics expert Dr. Alex Cross could not hold a candle to a nostalgic television re-run of the short-lived CBS series ‘Tenafly’.
In ‘Alex Cross’, Perry portrays the skillful FBI psychologist whose combination of cerebral fortitude and butt-kicking bravado is supposed to make him a capable crime chaser in the mean decaying Detroit streets. Cross is partnered with his best buddy Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and female officer Monica Ashe (Rachel Nicols). When Cross is not trying to solve the latest crime hatched by the various perverts and nutcases looking for gratuitous glory, he resides at home with his desirous wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo, ‘Sparkle’), his two children and mother (the incomparable Cicely Tyson).
This time Cross has his hands full with apprehending an edgy and artistic cretin dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox formerly from TV’s ‘Lost’ and ‘Party Of Five’) who specialises in sadistic methods against his tortured victims. Yes, this particular Picasso definitely paints a sordid picture as Cross must determine what this creepy criminal’s next move might entail. Thus Cross embraces his deep soul-searching tactics and deduction of reasoning in his quest to prevent the raucous Picasso from punishing his next prey slated for his corruptible canvas of chaos.
European capitalist Giles Mercier (Jeno Reno) wants to transform Detroit’s regional squalor into a money-making venture. Mercier understandably fears that his life may be in jeopardy as the probing Picasso might possibly target him (the crass-minded killer has already claimed the life for one of his high-powered female executives after an animated sexual encounter with her). In fact, Cross suspects that Mercier is in Picasso’s corrosive crossfire as well.
Methodically, Picasso leaves a predictable trail of casualties as his murder spree piles up with Cross and his committed cohorts looking to tame this frustrating, sleek-built tattooed menace. Other sidetrack matters of the harried heart feature Dr. Cross rubbing shoulders with heralded Detroit crime boss Daramus (Giancarlo Esposito) and his jailed cousin Pop Pop. For the most part, Cross has the transparent angst-ridden obviousness that plays in a feeble fashion that is poorly reminiscent of TV’s Detective Bobby Goren from ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ meshed with the old-fashioned 70s dated coolness of super stud ‘Shaft’.
Disjointed, sullen and contrived, ‘Alex Cross’ never quite challenges its meager-eager material. Perry is somewhat inspired professionally and personally by his arbitrary turn as Dr. Alex Cross. However, getting under the skin of his brainiac crime solver seems daunting as the movie’s pacing plods along complete with staged perfunctory sequences of action-oriented mayhem on the busy Detroit streets. Sadly, ‘Alex Cross’ never rises above a standard juicy chase scene or the obligatory violent flourishes on a prime time drama show. Fox’s reckless rascal Picasso is an occasional hoot as the villainous foil in clichéd absurdity. Reno’s puffed-up foreign industrialist Mercier feels like a last minute invention to pump up the source for the movie’s quota of periled personalities in which to share some assorted ambivalence of intrigue and indifference.
Refreshingly, Perry leaves his ‘Madea’ panties at home to concentrate on stretching his filmography in an over-indulgent and underwhelming action adventure flick that is nothing more than an inane and artificial procedural puff piece.
For this bad-to-the-bone blunder, Perry continues to have a Cross to bear in finding his niche away from his famed bible-thumping, box office lip service granny with the itchy trigger finger.
Alex Cross (Summit Films)
1 hr. 42 mins.
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Carmen Ejogo, Jean Reno, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, Giancarlo Esposito
Directed by: Rob Cohen
MPPA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Mystery & Suspense/Action Adventure/Crime Thriller