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Alex Cross

October 21, 2012
Alex Cross

Speculation has been running high as to whether Tyler Perry can make an effective action thriller star. Most famous, obviously, for his Madea movies and similar comedies, his turn in Good Deeds showed he can handle drama as well, albeit dramas with similar themes to his comedies. But let’s face it, the man is a big teddy bear, which doesn’t bode well for a James Patterson adaptation.

I can say with confidence that Alex Cross does not work. However the blame cannot be placed squarely at Perry’s feet. No, he wasn’t really convincing as a tortured detective, but the problems start with Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson’s screenplay, loosely adaptaed from James Patterson’s Cross.

First off, why did they have to move from Washington, DC to Detroit, losing a huge chunk of Cross’ character that his choosing to live in Southeast provides? Is this meant to be a prequel to the Morgan Freeman films Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider?

Indeed, Cross talks with his wife (Carmen Ejogo) about moving to DC to take a higher-paid and safer job with the FBI, but she seems hesitant to leave, and anticipates further resistance from Nana Mama (Cicely Tyson), the grandmother who raised him.

But for now Cross works in the Detroit Police Department in a unit with detectives Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), and under the authority of Captain Richard Brookwell (John C. McGinley). Brookwell rousts the unit, calling them to a “four roses” case. The term is never really explained, but I think refers to a quadruple homicide. The CFO of the multinational Malthus Corporation — which name always indicates pretense on the author’s part — was tortured to death and her bodyguards dispatched by what Cross determines to be a single attacker. He also determines a pattern pointing to the COO and through him to the head of the corporation, Leon Mercier (Jean Reno).

The killer (Matthew Fox) is a stock character: the clean, precise, ultra-capable psychopath who commands an exorbitant price as a hit man. That said, Fox plays him to a tee. He’s creepily reptilian in his single-minded pursuit of his goals, which include a heavy emphasis on inflicting pain. However, he’s almost completely unmotivated for the vast majority of the film. For a character who’s supposed specialty is psychological profiling, Cross spends almost no time working out who this person is and why he does what he does.

In fact, sloppy plotting and characterization is endemic to the whole script, which leaves dozens of loose ends to be perfunctorily wrapped up in a hasty post-climax sequence. Worst of all, this sequence introduces a crucial clue in the way of explaining everything, which violates the fundamental tenet of the detective story: the reader — or the viewer, in this case — should in principle be able to solve the case by the time the detective presents the solution.

The whole thing is a giant, disorganized mess. Fox tries his best and shows some real talent in a role almost diametrically opposed to Jack Shephard from Lost, while Perry strives to break away from his own comfort zone. But both of them are mired in this bog, and Perry will need more help than he gets in order to seem convincing.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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