Tyler Perry has a niche audience that flocks to anything he has his name attached to. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it limits his appeal. His involvement in this week’s new release, Alex Cross, extends only to his onscreen persona—he didn’t write or direct this as he does his other work—so it makes me wonder if Perry is looking to branch out and try something different, something that doesn’t involve dressing up in a dress and wig. If that’s the case, he better look elsewhere. This movie is a train wreck, a disaster that I imagine even die hard Perry fans will hate. From the opening scene where a fleeing bad guy shoots what may be the slowest bullet ever shot to its banal and unbelievable (meaning stretching the limits of credibility) ending, Alex Cross does a grand total of zero things right.
Perry plays the titular character, Dr. Alex Cross, a Detroit detective who has an affinity for calling people “maggot” and who is tasked with tracking down a murderer nicknamed Picasso, played by Matthew Fox, who is running amok in his city. Along with his partner, Tommy, played by Edward Burns, Cross sets out stop him, unaware of the tragedies about to befall him.
I would say Alex Cross is your standard action/thriller, but the word “standard” implies some level of competence. It implies that the film is adequate, if unremarkable, and though it may not push the boundaries on what the genre can do, it serves its purpose well. That isn’t the case here. From lackadaisical direction to some of the most poorly edited sequences in a movie this year, like when Picasso seemingly transports from the top of a high rise building to the sewers without breaking the onscreen timeline, the film is a complete and utter mess. It’s so bad, I felt embarrassed for simply watching it; I can only imagine how the filmmakers must feel.
Director Rob Cohen, the man behind such classics as xXx and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, directs Alex Cross like someone looking to mature, but not knowing how. It’s a darker, sadder film than his previous efforts, or at least it tries to be, but he fails to make his actors bring it to life. It has long been said that a movie is only as good as its villain. If that’s true, Alex Cross is one of the worst movies to grace the screen in many a moon. Picasso is as boring as villains come and Fox, despite having already proven himself as a talented actor in his past works, plays him so over-the-top as to be unintentionally laughable. For the majority of the movie, he does little more than bug his eyes out and move with a twitch. Fox seems to forget that villains are supposed to be menacing, not comical.
It must also be said that the pairing of Perry and Burns is the worst buddy cop pairing since Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in Kevin Smith’s 2010 disaster Cop Out (which Alex Cross is actually funnier than, though it’s not supposed to be). Perry and Burns strike up no chemistry and don’t feel like longtime partners. Their scenes are so bad, particularly when they’re trying to strike up witty repartee (“I’d rather take advice from a ham sandwich,” Perry says at one point), that you can still feel the awkwardness between the two actors, as if these scenes were the first ones shot and they hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with each other. To be fair, it’s not just their scenes. When the movie is littered with lines like “I didn’t get you pregnant by talking,” any attempts at legitimacy fly out the window.
Alex Cross is one of those master sleuths we see so often these days. You know the ones, the ones who can solve a crime in a matter of minutes with simple observation and who are so hard to believe or take seriously. If the whiz kids at NCIS can solve their crimes in 45 minutes, Alex Cross can do it in 20, which, coincidentally, is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to spend with him (if that). Of course, you’ll have figured out the mystery long before the characters onscreen—the film’s visual clues and expository dialogue are anything but subtle—so that inconsequential and uninteresting narrative twist at the end (that perfectly complements the inconsequential and uninteresting movie it resides in) doesn’t shock as much as I’m sure was intended. If you mistakenly decide to subject yourself to Alex Cross, it’s guaranteed to be a difficult movie to sit through; the desire to get up and leave will be a constant inner struggle. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about it and it fails on every level.
Alex Cross receives 0/5