The multi-talented Tyler Perry took over the title role in Alex Cross from Morgan Freeman, but despite Perry’s often strained, bewildered performance, it is hardly certain that the senior actor could have saved this movie. Perhaps replacing director Rob Cohen, with his seizure-action pseudo-style, would have helped; perhaps the movie was doomed from the moment author James Patterson and his Jeff Koons-style factory of co-authors sat down to tap out the novel.
Alex Cross is a hard-nosed Detroit police detective with a far-fetched, cartoony ability to sniff out any crime scene. He and his partner, Tommie Kane (Edward Burns) walk in to a room, and with scarcely a glance at the evidence, Cross is spouting-off motives based on the caliber of bullets shown in the entry wounds. In Alex Cross, the detective runs up against a supposedly formidable opponent in Picasso (Matthew Fox), a hired killer and malicious madman who is on a killing spree. The deaths are related to the multi-national company led by Frenchman Leon Mercier (Jean Reno), and Cross is getting heat from his boss, the police chief, because Mercier is a major player in Detroit’s revitalization, and the chief is playing politics. Eventually Cross is forced to go rogue to take care of business.
This crime story alone would have worked well-enough, but Patterson (and screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson) have to create some backstory that screams “backstory!” Cross is married to the beautiful Maria (Carmen Ejogo). She’s expecting. He’s happy at home. His mom is charming. His kids are cute. And we couldn’t care less. But Cross’ family life gets roped into the action when the killer begins targeting Cross’ loved ones based on a very loosely motivated sense of revenge.
Alex Cross’ stumbling style, lack of suspense, predictable plot twists, and one-dimensional heroes are bad enough, but what really irks about this film is the villain, Picasso. Considering Patterson’s blunt-and-blatant imagination, you can probably guess form the character’s name that there’s an art angle. Yep, the killer draws pictures with vital clues hidden in them, leaving them at the crime scene, thus convincing us that this guy is an absolute moron. But then, a flash of the camera later, and we’re supposed to believe he is something of a mastermind caught in a high-stakes chess game with the grandmaster Cross. What Picasso actually is something less, one of those maniac characters so robotically singularly-minded and unidentifiably inhuman that they are complete and utter bores. There’s a mad man on the loose, and Alex Cross has to clean it up. But you better watch out, taking care of business is as exciting as taking out the trash.