Alex Cross (M) – 2 stars
Tyler Perry, Ed Burns, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno
DIRECTOR: ROB COHEN
REVIEW: SHANNON HARVEY
You'll like this if you liked Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider, The Bone Collector, In the Line of Fire, Sherlock Holmes, the TV shows Law & Order, CSI, NCIS and Bones.
James Patterson has become one of history's best-selling authors thanks largely to his Alex Cross series, of which he's published 20 books about the FBI psychologist and criminal profiler.
So it's somewhat surprising that only two Alex Cross films have been made; 1997's Kiss the Girls and 2001's Along Came a Spider. Both starred Morgan Freeman and both weren't successful enough to warrant sequels. That is, until now. And with a lesser actor, Tyler Perry, in the title role.
The plainly titled Alex Cross is based on Patterson's even more plainly titled novel Cross - number 12 in the series - and is as plain, bland and routine as police procedurals get. If you're a fan of crime-related TV dramas such as Law & Order, CSI and NCIS, this is your kind of film. You can almost hear Law & Order's trademark "bah-bing" sound in the background but you'll have seen it all before.
Written by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, Alex Cross plays almost like an origin story, where Cross (Perry) is still a homicide detective in Detroit who's entertaining a job offer from the FBI in Washington. He's got a wife (Carmen Ejogo) and a bossy old mother (Cicely Tyson, The Help) who runs the house.
Enter a sadistic killer named The Butcher (Matthew Fox) who's on the loose and knocking off Detroit's financial powerbrokers. Cross walks on to the first crime scene with his Irish partner (Ed Burns) and can tell it's a single killer, white male, ex-military, professional assassin who wears Old Spice - but not today - and parts his hair to the right. OK, I made those last two up, but you get the picture.
Cross may be a great character in the books but in this film, he's a complete caricature. He's a modern Sherlock Holmes - without the humour. Just why The Butcher (another plain title for a killer) is after Detroit's bigwigs is a complete mystery that Cross and the screenwriters conveniently avoid. I suspect it's because it gives them more time for the hunt to get personal when The Butcher targets Cross' family and Cross goes rogue to get The Butcher.
As The Butcher, Fox has never looked so lost, despite six seasons on that island. He's clearly dropped a lot of weight for the role, with such a skeletal body that his veins snake around his often-shirtless body like worms under his skin. His eyes are always wide. It's such an over-the-top, one-note, full psycho performance it becomes funny.
Fox seems to have handed his lost weight to his target, an aristocrat played by French star Jean Reno, who looks 20kg heavier than usual. If you loved Reno in The Professional or Ronin, his appearance here is just sad.
As for Perry, to call him a B-movie Morgan or Denzel would be kind, for he's as plain and unappealing as a cardboard cutout here. He's largely unknown in Australia but a big star in the US, where his signature role is Madea, the cross-dressing matriarch he plays in several Madea films.
As several US critics quipped, Alex Cross might have been much improved with Madea in the title role.