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Review: Alex Cross murder-mystery is methodically mundane

Alex CrossIf you are a fan of mediocre TV movies about mundane detectives in pursuit of demented bad-guys, or if you love the self-made movie mogul Tyler Perry, then you are probably going to be mildly entertained by Alex Cross, a reboot of sorts for the killer-catching character made popular by the James Patterson book series and the Morgan Freeman films Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) – otherwise you may want to cross this one off your weekend movie list.

Although I don’t really dig his movies, I do have a lot of respect for Tyler Perry, the writer, director, producer and star of the Madea films that are incredibly popular with their targeted audience. This very likable man created a successful brand out of nothing and flew in the face of the Hollywood movie-making machine, filling a niche for many African-American moviegoers.  Perry is a true American success story, but unfortunately this Alex Cross attempt to move beyond Madea comes up short.

I’ve never read any of the Patterson books, but apparently this new film is loosely based on the first novel (Cross) and takes place before Alex (Tyler Perry) began his career with the FBI. He’s a homicide detective with a Doctorate in Psychology and is portrayed as a kind of modern-day Sherlock Holmes, able to derive conclusions based on minor clues that the average police officer doesn’t even notice.

Alex CrossCross and his partners Monica (Rachel Nichols) and Tommy (Edward Burns) are on the trail of an artistic and talented assassin named Picasso (Matthew Fox) who is targeting a group of European business executives. After Alex’s team thwarts one of the killer’s hits, the psycho then turns his attention towards the cops and their families. Anyone who has ever seen a cop-hunting-crazy-killer movie can easily guess what happens next – there is nothing new here.

The highlight of Alex Cross is the performance by Matthew Fox as Picasso. The Lost actor has obviously dedicated himself to this role, losing weight and sculpting his body into a lean, mean killing-machine who takes maniacal pleasure in torturing his victims. Fox walks a fine line, bordering on being as cartoonish as the rest of the cast in this film, but in the end I think he pulls off the part successfully and any down side is the fault of lackluster writing by Marc Moss (Along Came a Spider) and Kerry Williamson.

Alex CrossAlex Cross also stars Jean Reno (Leon: The Professional) as the main target of the Picasso killer, John C. McGinley (Platoon) as the stereotypical police chief, the talented Yara Shahidi (Butter) as the detective’s young daughter Janelle Cross and Cicely Tyson as Alex’s grandmother, Nana Mama, adding a little too much  Madea flavor to this suspense thriller .

This movie is directed by Rob Cohen and he seems to have sleepwalked through this effort, leaving out the edgy excitement that he brought to some of his other work like The Fast and the Furious. But the icing on this dull, lifeless cake is in its absurd epilogue ending where Alex Cross wraps up the case by piecing together obscure clues that flew right past me during the movie (I didn’t realize there would be a test at the end.) It’s almost like the end of a bad Scooby-Doo episode. I’m certain that Alex Cross is going to play well with Tyler Perry’s fans, but this film feels more like a run-of-the-mill television series pilot than a serious feature film effort.   Grade: 4/10

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.