Alex Cross (2012)
“Don’t Ever Cross Alex Cross”
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols
Synopsis: A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.
The fact that a novelist can accurately be described as best-selling doesn’t often mean that the said writer’s work has any particular literary merit. That’s certainly the case of James Patterson, whose novels featuring the Washington cop Alex Cross have been best sellers on both sides of the Atlantic for a couple of decades now. What Patterson lacks in talent, though, he more than makes up for in his ability to tell a story and, in a world which seems to increasingly demand its information and entertainment shrunk to easily digestible snippets that place no undue stresses on our intelligence, his style of writing has proven to be enduringly popular. Plot-driven stories such as Patterson’s, therefore, should make terrific movies simply because of the strength of their plots and reliance on authentic-sounding dialogue. But, for some reason, they don’t. The two previous Alex Cross movies, Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001), in which Morgan Freeman played the part of Cross, were both pedestrian efforts, and the movie Alex Cross, in which the role is assumed by comedian Tyler Perry, proves to be even less accomplished than its predecessors.
Cross is far too happy at the beginning of the movie, and within a very short time, it becomes apparent to all but the most inexperienced of movie watchers that plot formalities demand that something has to be done about this. He has a loving family, you see, and his beautiful wife has just informed him that they’ll shortly be welcoming a new member to it. At the same time, Cross’s work partner Thomas Kane (Edward Burns) is involved in a meaningful discussion with his lover, Monica (Rachel Nichols), who also happens to work in Cross’s unit, and for whom Kane is evidently willing to hand in his badge. And we all know what that means, don’t we, movie fans?
The happiness of Cross and Kane will be destroyed by a serial killer known as Picasso (Matthew Fox), one of those slick serial killers who exists only in the minds of commercially-minded writers. Picasso is an expert in torture who leaves sketches at the scenes of his murders, hence the handle. Picasso’s first victim — or at least the first we see — is Fan Yao (Stephanie Jacobson), a high-powered executive whose attention Picasso attracts by crushing an opponent in a cage fight at which she is present (Don’t ask — because the movie never bothers to explain). Having won an invitation to Fan Yao’s heavily fortified luxury home and then into her bedroom, Picasso ties her wrists to her bed under the guise of hot and horny seduction, but then injects her with a paralysing agent before proceeding to part her from all of her fingers.
At the murder scene, Cross determines that Fan Yao’s equally high-powered colleagues at a multinational corporation involved in urban renewal will be next in line for the attentions of Picasso. The reason he arrives so quickly at this conclusion has something to do with the fact that Cross makes Sherlock Holmes look like a beginner. And sure enough, Cross and his gang are on hand to foil Picasso’s next hit at the multinational headquarters, and Kane almost manages to take the guy out completely. However, Monica is amongst the collateral damage of the ambush, and Picasso is so ticked off at having been both foiled and wounded that he determines to take personal revenge on Detective Cross.
There isn’t a lot of good to say about Alex Cross. It’s competently made, and the action sequences are handled with skill, but that’s about it. Tyler Perry is a name that’s unfamiliar to me, but looking at his filmography on IMDb, he appears to specialise in playing a black grandmother called Madea, so exactly why the producers of this movie felt that he was a suitable candidate to play the part of Cross is something of a mystery. Either way, he’s completely anonymous in the role. Conversely, Edward Burns is unforgettable in the role of Cross’s abrasive sidekick purely because he’s so damn annoying. Not only does Burns’ rasping voice irritate like fingernails on a chalkboard, his character is one of those mouthy know-it-alls who are convinced they are alpha males simply because they have the ability to talk loudly with confidence. The dialogue that writers Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson put into his — and everyone else’s mouth — doesn’t help. How does ‘This is a guy who can tell you had scrambled eggs for breakfast at a hundred yards’ strike you? Not cliched enough? Than how about ‘You aren’t in the game. The game is in you’? That’s about as good as it gets, but even such simplistic dialogue can’t prevent the movie from becoming an incoherent mess that just doesn’t justify your attention.