By Wilson Morales
In watching ‘Alex Cross,’ where Tyler Perry acts in his first lead role in a film that he didn’t produce or direct, you may ask yourself if he will bring in the intensity and suspense that Morgan Freeman brought to the character in the two films (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider) he did in the late 90s. With those films, there was a certain level of intrigue because it was set like a jigsaw puzzle that had audiences looking for clues from each scene. With ‘Alex Cross,’ the script is filled with such a lack of suspense, that this cat-and-mouse film feels cliché and laughable.
Based on the novel by James Patterson, Perry plays Alex Cross, a young homicide detective/psychologist from Detroit. (The story is set from Cross’ early days as of the police force). Along with his childhood friend and partner Det. Tommy Kane (Ed Burns) and Det. Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), are looking to solving a grisly murder.
It seems that a merciless and sadistic guy named Picasso (Matthew Fox) is a on a mission to kill certain individuals tied to financier Leon Mercier (Jean Reno). With a knack in being patient, this guy loves to torture his victims rather than kill them so easily with his mixed martial arts skills that he displayed in an earlier scene.
With a job offer coming from Washington D.C to join the FBI and a pregnant wife (Carmen Ejogo), who doesn’t want to leave her job to move away, Cross is looking to finish this case until certain events make it harder for both Cross and Picasso to walk away from.
As mentioned earlier, the focal point of the film is whether or not Tyler Perry, as a lead actor, can make a success without the Madea persona. His Madea films have done very well at the box office, and the producers were looking for an opportunity to have Perry bring some of that audience to another vehicle. He tried earlier this year in his own film, the romantic drama ‘Good Deeds,’ which co-starred Thandie Newton and Gabrielle Union. While the film didn’t big numbers at the box office, it still did well for a black actor not named Denzel or Will. He still needs more work without the costume to bring in a new fanbase.
In a formulaic caper thriller like Alex Cross, where the villain is just a one note character, the film is almost paint-by-numbers. The audience can figure out how the film will end. It’s just a matter of how it will play out, and the end sequences is a been-there-done-that routine that leaves little for excitement.
Directed by Rob Cohen, who brought us the first ‘Fast and Furious,’ and Vin Diesel’s ‘XXX,’ one can tell, at least with those films, that his technique is more style over substance. There are plenty of action and chase sequences in the film that will please some fans, although most of it is unbelievable. Fox is just over-the-top as the psychotic killer-for-hire. Although he shaved his head and lost some weight to play this baddie, it’s too bad this role had no dimensions. While Burns adds some nice moments as Cross’ partner, most of the supporting cast (Jean Reno, Carmen Ejogo, John C. McGinley, Giancarlo Esposito and Cicely Tyson) are underutilized to a great extent. Usually when a lead actor doesn’t have a lot of experience carrying a film, the rest of the cast is supposed to help out minimize the flaws, but Cohen and the screenwriters (Mark Moss, Kerry Williamson) failed to add any layers to their characters.
The film is not as terrible as one might think. This is the type of film that would go straight-to-DVD if it had starred a non ‘A’ actor like a Steven Segal or Wesley Snipes. With Perry, the film is a test for him to flex some muscle and unfortunately, the team behind the camera didn’t do him any justice.