“Alex Cross” is Tyler Perry’s attempt at starring in a serious movie outside of his normal comfort zone. Now you won’t see him running around in drag sporting his familiar Madea getup, but there are times in “Alex Cross” where that might have made things more interesting. Now to be fair, this movie is nowhere near as unbearable as I was anticipating and there are some pretty good moments. But in the end this is all to familiar material and the movie never does anything to set itself apart. In other words we’ve seen this all before.
Tyler Perry isn’t the first actor to portray Alex Cross, the lead character from James Patterson’s series of novels. Morgan Freeman took on the role in 1997 with “Kiss the Girls” and in 2001 with “Along Came a Spider”. Not only are these two films considerably different than this new vision, but the Alex Cross character undergoes a hefty transformation as well. He’s still a police detective and forensic psychologist but here he’s more open to mixing hand-to-hand combat and his sawed off shotgun to his Sherlock Holmesesque skills of deduction.
Life is good for Alex. He has a beautiful wife, two lovely children, and one on the way. He’s also been offered a cushiony FBI desks job that pays a lot more money and would allow him to spend more time with his family. But isn’t it just like a sadistic serial killer to make things more complicated. Alex is called to a high-profile crime scene with his partner and lifelong friend Tommy (Edward Burns). They connect the murder to a man they call Picasso. He’s played by an almost emaciated Matthew Fox sporting a shaved head and noticeably fake tattoos. As with all of these movies, Alex and company set out to stop Picasso by picking through clues and getting to the next victim before the killer does. Like I said, it’s pretty familiar material.
“Alex Cross” runs the gamut from a crime drama to a revenge thriller. As the movie continues things get grislier to the point of seriously pushing the bounds of its PG-13 rating. Considering the movie does focus on a brutal serial killer and the hunt to find him, it’s not unreasonable to expect some rather gruesome content. But while “Alex Cross” does stretch the PG-13 rating, it seems shackled by it as well. I kept feeling as if the movie wanted to be darker, grimmer, and a bit more shocking than it was. I don’t think that would transform this into a great film but I can see where it would provide an edge that would help it overall.
But back to one of the bigger questions surrounding the movie. Was Tyler Perry able to pull this off? Let me just say that he was surprisingly adequate but nothing extraordinary or memorable. And while there were no egregious flaws in his performance, there are several times where he overplays a scene and other times where his stale line-reading is a distraction. It’s interesting that Idris Elba was initially cast for the part and I can’t help thinking he would be a better choice. But as for Perry, I was expecting a lot worse.
Edward Burns probably gives the best performance of the movie even though some of the lines he’s given are pretty lame. And then there’s Matthew Fox. His performance is a tough one to peg. There are a few scenes, particularly when he’s wrestling with threatening dialogue, where he’s not that convincing. But overall I do think he pulls it off mainly because he sells ‘crazy’ pretty well through the combination of his unusual appearance and his moral apathy. But perhaps the most jarring performance comes from John McGinley as Alex Cross’ police captain. He’s terribly miscast and every line he says is ridiculously overdone. His performance stands out but for all the wrong reasons.
“Alex Cross” isn’t the worst movie out there. Its biggest problem is that it’s just not memorable enough to overcome its clear flaws. Most of the movie features too much that we’ve seen before and the ending feels like a cheap cop out. And while Tyler Perry may not have been the worst choice, I think it’s obvious he wasn’t the best choice. All of this contributes to “Alex Cross” being pretty forgetful. Some ingredients are there for what could’ve been a good movie. But the ingredients themselves don’t equal a fine dish. That’s certainly the case here.