Alex Cross: Wrong In Just About Every Way

One can understand Tyler Perry‘s desire to step away from his money-gushing Madea movies, put on some pants and channel his many talents in a new direction. Unfortunately, the area into which he’s chosen to branch out — the cop-vs.-killer thriller — is one for which he’s all wrong in just about every way. Even more unfortunately, he has placed himself in the hands of Rob Cohen, a sloppy action director whose most recent film, 2008’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” was idiotic in just about every way.

The character of Alex Cross — a detective with a psychology degree — comes to us from a long series of novels by the madly prolific James Patterson and was portrayed by Morgan Freeman in two hit movies made more than a decade ago. Freeman is a much subtler actor than Perry, however; Perry’s defining characteristic as a performer is his radiant, huggy-bear warmth. This quality sits oddly in a story about a tough Detroit detective stalking a vicious assassin. But Perry knows that sensitivity is his strong suit, so amid the bloody murders and blurry chases that litter this picture, he and Cohen have allowed lots of room for the actor to display his soft side. There are long, nuzzly interludes with Cross and his lovely wife (Carmen Ejogo) and gentle heart-to-heart scenes with Cross and his little daughter (Yara Shahidi), and there is much affectionate byplay involving Cross and his wizened mom (Cicely Tyson). There are also more tears than any tough cop ever has been called upon to shed; at one point, Cross and his stalwart partner (Edward Burns) sit side by side in a chapel pew and weep together. We keep wanting the assassin to come back and kill some more people — maybe them. Eventually he does return, but never soon enough.

The killer is a bony, pop-eyed lunatic played by Matthew Fox of “Lost” (who appears to have prepared for the role by dropping every pound it’s possible to lose and still retain signs of life). Because of this wack job’s practice of leaving cubist sketches of his victims at his crime scenes, Cross dubs him Picasso. Inevitably, the killer makes taunting phone calls to Cross in which he explains his love of inflicting pain — often upon the female characters in the story, who are on hand mainly to die. There’s a lot of running around and fist-fighting and automotive uproar, and Cohen stages it all so ineptly and shoots it so hyper-shakily that very soon we give up caring about whatever it is that’s supposed to be going on.

Also putting in a number of appearances is the estimable Jean Reno, here simply cashing a check to play the French businessman who is Picasso’s top target. Cross is the man who nails him in the end, however — in one of the most witlessly contrived conclusions in cop flick history.

It’s hard to imagine how this film could have been more ruinously misconceived or lumberingly executed, although we may see soon; a sequel is already in the works.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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