“Alex Cross” is a boring, fairly hackneyed attempt at a crime procedural thriller, ably acted by Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox but weakly directed by Rob Cohen, who seems far too concerned with what’s cool as opposed to what’s smart and right for the story, and failing at both aspects anyway. What could essentially be an episode of any random network television crime procedural television show, “Alex Cross” really offers nothing new to the genre and doesn’t do anything fun or interesting with the old clichés, which results in a boring 101 minutes.
Detective Dr. Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) heads up a small team that apparently focuses on women killers, as the movie starts with them tracking down a kidnapper and saving a young girl, both of whom are unrelated to the rest of the story. Cross is pretty great at what he does, displaying a Sherlock Holmes level of crime scene deduction and reasoning that is always right and never is questioned, but he does come across a dangerous foe in the form of a random hired killer (Matthew Fox), who is hired to kill three people, and goes after them one at a time. Fox plays this role with a level of obvious insanity, all wide eyes and shaved head, and he definitely seemed to have fun playing this sadistic and crazy character, and he pretty much acts as the one watchable and somewhat interesting thing in this whole film. So Fox and his team try to catch this guy and the whole movie is a game of cat and mouse, with the killer taking out people close to Detective Dr. Cross, making it personal and forcing Cross to go out on a righteous search for retribution.
It’s a shopworn premise, used over and over in stories going back centuries, the good man forced to exact personal vengeance, possibly crossing over moral lines, spurned on by the villain. Simply placing this set up in author James Patterson’s world of Alex Cross isn’t enough, there actually has to be some smarts to the story, but there isn’t. Like the opening scene that is disconnected from the rest of the movie, there isn’t much though put into this thing. Small characters are sloppily inserted into the beginning of the story just so they can be brought back in to advance the plot later in the movie, with no real connection to anything else happening in the story. And without getting too spoilery, a fairly big character in the movie gets murdered at one point, but this death is overshadowed by a second one, and no one seems to react much to the initial death, even though the characters were definitely close and cared for each other. It’s pretty ridiculous, actually, how much this death is undersold. Anyway, just examples of how the wrong things get emphasized and details are ignored.
Of course the elephant in the room is Tyler Perry and his performance as a detective and not as a cross dressing grandmother, and whether he would be believable at all in the role, and the truth is that he’s just fine, he’s just not given that much in this movie. It’s a very mediocre role how it’s written and he while he doesn’t seem to have the chops to elevate it into something great, he also has enough talent to not make it worse and actually make this character come across as an actual person. Really, there’s no reason Tyler Perry couldn’t appear on one of those network crime shows as a profiler or analyst or detective.
So no, Tyler Perry doesn’t hurt this movie at all. It’s Rob Cohen who hurts this movie because he just doesn’t know how to make a good-looking action movie. When you need three cuts to show one character crashing through one piece of glass, you don’t know what you are doing. And here is now a classic case of cameras being too tight on the action and moving too much and being edited too fast because all of the action is rendered meaningless and incomprehensible in the worst way possible. And what might be even worse is the lack of use for the great Jean Reno who just sits around most of his time on screen and fiddles with his pinkie ring, as well as the complete emotional uninvolvement of John C. McGinley, who proves that just because you can play a blowhard in your sleep doesn’t mean one should actually attempt to sleepwalk through the role like McGinley did here, as he was obviously uninspired by the lack of character or depth in this movie. Of course we are talking about a filmmaker whose best film is the very first “The Fast and the Furious” and maybe the mostly fictional “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” and everything else is just a bunch of blah. And here is “Alex Cross,” another example of a bad Rob Cohen movie. So is anyone surprised by any of this at all?