We’ve rather missed out on Tyler Perry here in the UK. While his self-written and directed movies have proved big hits amongst African-American audiences in the US and turned him into a multi-millionaire, many of his films never got cinemas releases in Britain. Some did get belated DVD releases, but a few have never come out here at all. Alex Cross is Perry’s attempt to segue over into the worldwide mainstream cinema success, as well as being the first film to have him in the lead that he didn’t also write and helm himself (he did pop up in a small role in Star Trek though).
However on this evidence, I don’t think we should be upset that we’ve missed out on the Tyler Perry phenomenon, as unless he’s much, much better as his drag-creation, Madea, the guy can barely act. He’s not the only one in Alex Cross who’s dreadful either, to the point where about halfway through I was wondering if an inability to convey basic human emotions in a believable fashion was a prerequisite to appear in this movie. Even Jean Reno appears to have forgotten how to give a performance. Perry meanwhile is essentially a talking brick who, if it had been revealed at the end that he was actually a robot, it would have explained an awful lot.
Alex Cross is, of course, James Patterson’s detective hero, previously played on-screen by Morgan Freeman in Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls. Here he gets put onto a case where someone (Matthew Fox) is assassinating rich businessmen in Detroit. However this is no ordinary killer, as he’s a man who genuinely enjoys his work and goes out of his way to inflict pain. As Cross closes in the serial killer makes things incredibly personal, which sets Alex off on a path of revenge, where he’s prepared to do anything to get payback.
If Alex Cross didn’t take itself so deadly seriously, it could possibly have been entertaining trash. Instead its endless po-faced clumsiness that’s almost breath-taking in how inept, badly laid out and astonishingly dumb it is. There are some truly painful moments, such as early on in the movie when Alex’s wife decides to show hubby her sonogram, which is done in such an inelegant way she might as well have painted a bulls-eye on her forehead. Even the aircrew in World War II movies who talk about their fiancée back home were subtler in foreshadowing their demise than this.
Likewise, when we first meet Jean Reno he gives a little speech about his ring, and might as well have added, “And yes, this item of jewellery is going to be relevant later on, so pay attention”. It’s all so ham-fisted that it’s almost unbelievable. The endless moments that would fail ‘Screenwriting 101’ might have been forgivable if the film around them was fun, but the plot is horribly lop-sided so that it takes ages to properly get going and then finishes shortly after that. Matthew Fox’s murderer starts out well – and his physical transformation for the role is impressive – but it quickly descends into cartoon psycho territory.
The second half is particularly problematic as Perry is such a block of wood clumping leadenly through the movie that when he essentially turns violent criminal himself, he comes across more unpleasant thug than avenging angel.
I don’t often say this, but Alex Cross really is an awful movie with virtually no redeeming features. If I had to think of one, I’d say the HD transfer on this Blu-ray sometimes looks pretty stylish, but even then we’re still in polished turd territory.
Overall Verdict: Quite how this film ended up going into production with a script so clumsy, obvious, ham-fisted and badly paced, I have absolutely no idea. In the editing room they should have realised it was a turkey and tried to go ‘so bad it’s good’, but instead they decided ‘so bad it’s abysmal’ would be better.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac