Mark Reviews Movies

Alex Cross


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Cicely Tyson, Carmen Ejogo, Giancarlo Esposito, John C. McGinley, Jean Reno

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 10/19/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 18, 2012

Alex Cross can't decide what makes its central character tick. He is alternately a thoughtful criminal psychologist with a fully intellectual bent and a rage-fueled vigilante driven by his desire for revenge (This doesn't even take into consideration the scenes in which the character is played as a straight-up action hero, like when he holds his own in a brawl with a man who has been established as a formidable fighter).

It is, of course, possible for these two characteristics to exist in one individual. The key to the reason why the character's wholly disparate traits feel uneven, though, is that the changes depend entirely on the requirements of Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson's screenplay (based on James Patterson's novel Cross, the twelfth entry in the 18-book series about the character).

That the movie is narratively inconsistent doesn't help matters, and the result is a lot of awkward shifts and just plain bad choices in terms of tone. On the one hand are the workings of an over-the-top professional assassin and the investigative efforts to stop him; on the other are Alex Cross' (Tyler Perry, looking visibly uncomfortable during much of the movie) attempts to deal with the murder of a loved one and the insatiable rage he takes from his grief. The movie switches between these two threads with sometimes whiplash-inducing speed.

This is a movie that is as impatient with itself as we are with it. It cannot even allow Cross the transition from grieving to revenge, and in an extended sequence involving a funeral and a reception, the weight of the consequences of a pair of killings (The screenplay only cares about one, completely forgetting the other) can barely breathe before the plot kicks into gear again. At the burial, the camera pans over to Cross' nemesis with a sinister cue on the soundtrack; surrounded by mourners at his home, Cross swaps back and forth between consoling a family member and talking shop with his partner. If the movie doesn't let its protagonist process the impact of what has occurred and what he must face as a result, surely we cannot, either.

Cross is a master at his job, so much so that at one point a character repeatedly yells at him to "Get inside" the villain's head. Whether the demand for Cross to implement his vast intellectual resources on cue like a cheap parlor trick or the fact that he is able to do so is more ridiculous is debatable.

Anyway, Cross and his team—Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), his best friend since childhood, and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), who is in a relationship with Kane—wind up investigating the torture and murder of an executive at a major corporation with a plan to clean up Detroit. If we suspect that two partners is one partner too many for the screenplay to handle and are merely waiting for one of them to end up a victim, we are not wrong in our skepticism.

Cross dubs the killer "Picasso" (Matthew Fox, in a wide-and-wild-eyed, sneering performance that is ungainly in its best moments) for his trait of leaving behind a charcoal sketch at the scene of the crime (The way Cross immediately thinks to fold one of those drawings into thirds to reveal a clue hints that the great detective is an avid reader of a certain humor magazine). He calls himself "the Butcher" when he shows up at an underground fight club in an elaborate ruse to catch the attention of his first victim. Actually, all of his plans are unnecessarily extravagant, like when he employs scuba gear to swim through a building's water main or when he hijacks a moving monorail car so he can fire a rocket from a great distance to kill one person (There are multiple casualties, obviously).

The plot proper really starts when this assassin decides to kill one of Cross' family members instead of his opponent. Just as the screenplay has trouble determining who Cross actually is, director Rob Cohen struggles with finding a balance between the very straightforward revenge plot and the story's more outlandish elements.

The latter overwhelm the movie to such an extent that much of the material comes across as unintentionally comic (One scene that is played for laughs involves Cross and Kane arguing which of them will use the severed thumb of the first victim to open a safe, which is just strange after seeing how disgusted the characters are over the torture of the woman). For a relatively simple story, Alex Cross makes a multitude of bad decisions.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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