1 1/2 out of 4 stars
In less than a decade the New Orleans-born, Atlanta-based impresario Tyler Perry has created a mammoth cottage industry and in the process made himself one of the wealthiest and most influential figures in the film industry. Cranking out urban dramas, comedies and TV shows at a clip that would dizzy even the most frenzied workaholic, Perry is a wellspring of creativity and assembly-line production that shows no signs of letting up or slowing down.
With an ego that matches his output, Perry -- with "Alex Cross" -- has chosen to step far beyond his comfort zone to play the title character in a crime thriller that is unlike anything he has ever tried before. The first film in which he stars but did not also write, produce and direct, "Alex Cross" is both an origin story and reboot of the decade-old two film franchise ("Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider") based on the hugely popular James Patterson novels.
In the previous outings Cross -- a forensic psychiatrist and detective -- was played with expected sublime grace by Morgan Freeman but even with that and Patterson's fervently dedicated following, the movies only did so-so at the box-office.
As good as he is doing comedy while underneath loads of prosthetic makeup and often in drag, Perry has little to no dramatic range and without his props and self-penned dialogue appears totally lost and befuddled the entire time. When in the company of his family or off-hours with his co-workers Perry's Cross is an amiable if unremarkable and boring teddy bear kind of guy. When called on to break bad or go toe-to-toe with a murderous psycho head-case, Perry folds like a deck chair.
It doesn't help matters that the screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson includes every hard-boiled crime cliche imaginable. Culled not from one but several Patterson books, the narrative often rambles and at least half of the content has nothing to do with the meat of the story; which is equally tired and recycled.
As has been played out literally hundreds of times before, the investigators of a series of connected murders involve themselves to such a degree they themselves become collateral targets. Elements of "Se7en," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Zodiac," "Insomnia" and virtually every "Batman" movie show up in "Alex Cross" along with the requisite dark-grime palate, frantic camera work and rote action sequences.
Bad in an altogether different way than Perry is Matthew Fox ("Lost") as the killer, dubbed "Picasso" by the cops because of his penchant for cubist charcoal drawings. Pulling a Christian Bale by losing a lot a weight in order to achieve a sinewy, ectomorphic physique, Fox and the makeup/design crew complete his bogeyman persona with a shaved head and far too many tattoos. Fox's final physical touch involves him remaining Charles Manson bug-eyed for the duration. The only interesting thing about Picasso is the mystery drug he uses to subdue his victims.
Because Picasso's targets are so blatantly and obviously connected, we figure that the screenwriters and director Rob Cohen must have a huge surprise coming in the last act and in fact they do. Anyone paying even the most fleeting attention to the clues along the way will have the big wrinkle pegged long before it is revealed and like everything else in the film it comes across as embarrassingly predictable and formulaic.
Perry can now cross "play an action hero" off of his bucket list and return to Atlanta to continue adding to his sizable fortune as a linebacker-sized crotchety grandmother in a never-ending string of "Madea" comedies. (Summit)