(NEW YORK) — In Alex Cross, Tyler Perry plays the title character — the creation of prolific author James Patterson — earlier in his career as a detective and psychologist for the Detroit Police Department. Cross is a tough genius with a penchant for instantly diagnosing a murder scene, and the murderer’s motivation.
In this story, Cross and his team, consisting of his childhood best friend Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), come up against a sadistic sociopath who injects his victims with a drug that paralyzes them but leaves their senses intact while he slowly tortures them to death. Our killer also leaves behind detailed charcoal sketches, earning him the nickname Picasso. Matthew Fox inhabits his villainous role with the same intensity and commitment De Niro brought to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver — just without the great script, direction and depth.
Picasso’s motivations are never really made clear, though we’re treated to a number of taunting phone conversations between Picasso and Cross. That timeworn device, along with a laundry list of poorly-executed clichés, often makes the movie feel like a parody of a cheesy police procedural drama. The cheese doesn’t stop there, though. There’s Cross’s home life, where his wife Maria, played by Carmen Ejogo, is expecting their third child. While Perry and Ejogo play up the affection, you never feel the heat between them, which makes the dialogue sound hollow and — well, like I said earlier — cheesy. Cross’s grandmother, played by the incomparable Cicely Tyson, dishes out tough love to her grandson and his kids, but Perry just can’t hold his own opposite Tyson.
Director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) lends a deft hand to his action sequences. That’s what he does best and it shows: they’re the most riveting moments of Alex Cross, but it would’ve been nice if those sequences provided more of an emotional payoff. Cohen’s just not an actor’s director, and it seems character believability was low on his list of priorities.
As for Tyler Perry, he’s an incredible entertainer and businessman, but what we learn from Alex Cross is he’s not a very good actor. When you remember the older version of Cross was twice played on film by Morgan Freeman, having Perry succeed him is like signing Tim Tebow to quarterback a franchise that was once led by John Elway. You have to respect Perry for taking a risk here but, unfortunately, there’s no reward.
Two out of five stars.
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