Directed by Rob Cohen, Alex Cross follows the story of a respected police detective/psychologist who is endlessly tormented by a crazed serial killer; Tyler Perry's role as a title protagonist is adapted from James Patterson's bestselling thriller novels, and provides the third cinematic appearance of the popular character, previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001). Sadly, Alex Cross is a huge disappointment, demonstrating the fatal effect of poor direction and an embarrassingly weak screenplay.
Firstly, the trailer is immensely deceptive; I entered the cinema expecting to witness a fast-paced and exhilarating action thriller, but instead I was confronted with an abundance of dull background stories and a lack of gumption throughout. Alex Cross is in genre-limbo, which leads to uncomfortable viewing; it sells itself as an action/crime thriller, but feels more like an extended episode of CSI. In theory this wouldn't be a problem, but the film lacks attention to detail in the criminal investigation, and relies on Cross' personal relationships to fill the gaps within the plot; alternatively, the film could be an attempt at a revenge drama, but the characters are far too underdeveloped for it to be successful. Alex Cross is terribly confused, and so am I!
If we are to assume that Alex Cross is an action/crime thriller, we must therefore assume that Tyler Perry's role is that of the heroic protagonist, but I'm not entirely convinced. Personally, I like my heroes to be hard-hitting and ballsy in the style of Die Hard's John McClane, and in comparison, Alex Cross is a bit of a soft touch; he's sentimental and inconveniently hesitant, and when he finally finds the guts to take some action, he's almost deterred by the warnings of his mother! Apart from a lucky (but predictable) discovery at the very first hurdle, Cross does very little investigating and spends the majority of his time one step behind the clever criminal. Frankly, he seems like a bit of an amateur, despite his apparent reputation as a professional genius.
Thankfully, the antagonist provides an element of interest, stealing the limelight from our so-called hero; in the role of Picasso the psychotic serial killer, Matthew Fox is successfully disturbing, and erases any memory that you might have of him as Jack Shephard in Lost. Picasso is confident, commanding and defiant, everything that Cross should be, but minus the sadistic fascination with pain and suffering; in the game of cat and mouse, Picasso is quicker and smarter, repeatedly outwitting the police force and taking advantage of Cross' weakness in a series of psychological games. You'll secretly admire him, even though you're not supposed to.
Aside from the non-genre and the hit-and-miss characters, we're also forced to contend with an awkward plot; from Detroit to Bali, with funerals, manor houses, and a coincidental car crash scattered in between, Alex Cross is a mess from the very start. It's not a film that I'd recommend, and it's definitely not one that I'd see again; in fact, if you're looking to satisfy a craving for action, I suggest that you dive into the arms of John McClane, and settle down to watch a Die Hard marathon instead. Yippie-ki-yay.