To say that Tyler Perry’s range as an actor has been pretty small is an understatement. Other than his great, yet tiny, performance as Admiral Barnett in the very successful Star Trek remake, Perry’s resume is filled with nothing but roles in self-written and self-directed films in which he portrays several main characters, most notably donning the drag to play the infamous Mabel “Madea” Simmons. So when it was announced that Perry was going to try his luck as an action star by replacing Morgan Freeman in the new Alex Cross film (Freeman starred as Cross in 1997’s Kiss the Girl and 2001’s Along Came A Spider), it’s safe to say that my skeptical side started going crazy. Suffice to say that when it comes to this new chapter in the Alex Cross film series, my doubtful intuitions ended up right on the mark. Unfortunately, this is one of the most dull and generic action films to be thrown on the silver screen this year.
Loosely based on James Patterson’s twelfth novel, Cross, Alex Cross stars Tyler Perry as the titular protagonist, a family man, homicide detective, and psychologist who works in the Detroit area. The story follows Cross as he engages in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a psychotic serial killer, a madman named Picasso, played by Matthew Fox. Though things begin straightforward, the serial killer makes the mission personal when his targets begin to be people such as Cross’ wife, and, as a result, Cross is pushed to the edge with his morals as his psychological well-being becomes more strained and entangled.
Even thought I did have my doubts, Tyler Perry’s portrayal of Alex Cross is actually one of the best things about this movie. Perry is very believable throughout this entire film (he lost a considerable amount of weight to appear as the toned and well-fit Cross), delivering most, if not all, of the clever and intelligent lines in the entire script. When it’s time to get down to business, Perry definitely shows up to play, showing he can take the gloves and glasses off, as well as the fat suit, in order to kick some serious ass when necessary. Between this and his believable performance as a devoted family man, Perry is a serious breath of fresh air and his turn as Alex Cross is very comparable and in line with that of Morgan Freeman’s. Matthew Fox’s portrayal of a psychotic serial killer deserves some major recognition as well. Being a big fan of his thanks to the television series Lost, I was curious to see how he would do in his first role after the show, especially one where he’d be out of character as a degraded villain, and he seriously delivers. This is a man that I would definitely be afraid of, and Fox’s ability to portray this role with such a lack of emotion truly impressed me – you never knew what Picasso would do next and Fox’s performance was the only thing that gave the movie its much needed suspense.
Although the depiction of the two main characters is excellent, from there everything just gets worse. Honestly, the rest of the movie is just plain bad, there’s not much else to say. The supporting cast in the film is particularly horrible, and between the bad acting and absolutely horrid writing, these characters add nothing except some pretty cheesy one-liners and become people that no one really cares about. The plot, while based on a successful novel, is very generic, so much so that at some points I could even dictate everything that was going to happen next. The cinematography is typically slick and straightforward until the climatic fight (which lasted only about a minute or two), where the cameraman decides to deliver some of the shakiest camerawork I’ve ever seen. While I understand that a shaking camera can add a sense of jarring intensity to fight scenes, when excessively used it just leaves the audience dizzy and confused about what is happening on screen. Though director Rob Cohen once impressed with his fluid, adrenaline-pumping action scenes in films like The Fast and the Furious, none of that kinetic energy can be found in Alex Cross and the film suffers greatly because of it.
While Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox both may deliver, nothing else in this movie really fits. With horrible writing, a lifeless supporting cast, and sloppy cinematography, there wasn’t a moment during Alex Cross where I wasn’t shaking my head or completely bored. You almost have to feel bad for Tyler Perry. He’s trying to show the entertainment world that he does have range and can play characters other then the ones in the movies he makes, and he surprisingly can, it just sucks that this good performance was wasted on a such a very underwhelming movie.
Review by Nick Franco