Summit Entertainment // 2012 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 1st, 2013
He's a cop.
On the edge.
Of a donut.
Tyler Perry isn't really known for gritty crime dramas. Summit Entertainment hopes that changes with the release of Alex Cross, one of Perry's first films not to feature the prolific 'actor/director/producer/writer/caterer' in drag.
Seasoned homicide detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry, Madea's Witness Protection) is a man with a good life, a stable job, an amiable partner (Edward Burns, Saving Private Ryan), a devoted wife (Carmen Ejogo, Sparkle), and a beautiful daughter. But Cross' idyllic existence is turned upside when a deranged serial killer known only as "Picasso" (Matthew Fox, Lost) begins a murder spree in Detroit that eventually hits close home for our detective. Cross must utilize all of his skills and inner strength to stop this madman who barrels through the city with his deadly plan of attack.
Well, if you and I are going to run through this review together, I'm going to be completely honest: I have little interest in anything Tyler Perry does. I have seen three of his films (two starring the grating Madea) and the displeasure of sitting through several seasons of his television series Meet the Browns and House of Payne. I find Perry's work to be lazy, derivative, and filled with obnoxious characters. I also find it annoying when a director feels the need to start every title of their film with their name (John Carpenter excluded, he's earned the right). Heck, even Steven Spielberg doesn't do that! I can safely that Perry has been involved in only one movie I've enjoyed -- the recent Star Trek remake -- and he was in that for a scant few minutes.
So, you see where I'm coming from when I settle in for Alex Cross, based on the best selling novel by James Patterson. Well, not really. It's based on the character Alex Cross, but it's not based on any of the books. Not that it really matters. The character has been featured on film before, most notably played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, neither of which were paragons on great cinema. Tyler Perry doesn't come close to having the screen persona of Freeman; this time around Alex Cross is a bit paunchier and a lot slower (even though Perry is younger than Freeman he's not in what I'd call 'fantastic shape'). Most of Perry's dialogue is either jovial kidding around or growling sentences like, "I'm gonna watch your soul come oozing out of your body, you filthy maggot." The dialogue is bad, but at least it's said with squinty eyes and gritting teeth.
The rest of the cast makes hardly any impression except for one, and not in a good way. Let's talk about Matthew Fox, who viewers will no doubt recall from TV's hit Lost. Fox plays the "Picasso" killer with what can only be described as 'crazy eyes'. You know the type: twitchy lips, darting eyes, disjointed speech pattern. Instead of coming off as a creepy serial killer, Fox makes "Picasso" a parody of a truly scary movie villain. This isn't so much a performance as much a psychotic artistic expression...that doesn't work. Fox has beefed up his slender frame, but it doesn't offer much menace when the rest of his face is twitching and ticking so often I thought he was having an epileptic seizure from the neck up. I'd make more mention of Rachel Nichols (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as Cross's partner, John C. McGinley (Scrubs) as a police captain, Cicely Tyson (The Help) as Cross's grumpy mother, and Jean Reno (The Professional) as a possible target for "Picasso", but they make zero impact on the film except its bottom line (as they pick up their paychecks). Only Edward Burns offers some light levity when he saunters on screen; I'd have preferred seeing a movie about his character instead of Perry's.
The screenplay just goes through the motions, never gelling into a cohesive whole. Written by newcomer Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss (who also penned Along Came a Spider), Alex Cross hasn't got an original bone in its padded body. In fact, plot points seem to be stolen directly from other sources. My favorite moment comes when Dr. Cross is able to figure out "Picasso's" next target by -- and I kid you not -- folding up a charcoal drawing made by the killer in the same style as those back page drawings in MAD Magazine, the ones where folding it in half shows a brand new image. That's right, the movie's twists and turns are taken from the same periodical that features parodies of movies just like Alex Cross. And is it just me, or is the final confrontation induced by the most random car crash in the history of cinema?
Alex Cross isn't a horrible experience as much as blandly by-the-numbers; there's nothing here crime thriller fans haven't seen before and in far, far better movies. Clearly audiences couldn't have cared less since it sank like a stone at the box office last year. Maybe the film would have made more money if it had been titled Tyler Perry's Madea in James Patterson's Alex Cross.
Alex Cross is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Summit's transfer is very good; the colors are well saturated and the black levels all even and solid. Much of the film takes place in dark corners (especially when "Picasso" is on screen), but it's a well rendered video image that should please fans. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround in English. The audio mix is often aggressive and dynamic with a lot of directional effects throughout. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly distinguishable. Also included on this disc is a Spanish 5.1 mix, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
The extra features on this disc include a commentary track by director Rob Cohen, a featurette on the making of the film ("The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting and Filming Alex Cross"), a few deleted scenes, and trailers for other Lionsgate films.
The good news is Alex Cross is one of the best projects Tyler Perry has been associated with. The bad news is, if this is as good as it gets, Perry is in big trouble.
Alex Cross needs to be taken off the force, pronto.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes