Tyler Perry is best known in Australia for his comic roles as Madea, but he is a screenwriter and playwright whose earnings place him among the biggest names in US entertainment. For many of his fans, however, his attempt to cross over into more serious fare in Alex Cross might come as a shock. Although not entirely successful, he shows just enough to suggest we might see more of him in such roles in the future.
Perry is Alex Cross, a police detective with a strong interest in criminal profiling. The murder of a high profile business executive will lead to Cross and his team being asked to investigate, and they quickly intuit that this perp is something outside of the ordinary.
The cast performs acceptably in roles that aren’t particularly noteworthy. Most actors would struggle to differentiate themselves from the background noise provided by characters and stories in so many similar films, novels and tv shows. This is perhaps the major obstacle facing Perry: this film is essentially a by-the-numbers crime thriller featuring a near-genius protagonist opposed by a near-genius antagonist. There is little in either the writing of character or plot that will allow him to stand out.
Fox is just creepy enough to pull off his turn as Picasso. Edward Burns earns a pass as Cross’ partner, and minor roles seem wasted on Jean Reno and John C. McGinley. It isn’t the performances, however, that are the major problem with the film. There are several other difficulties that far outweigh the run-of-the-mill characters.
The film seems long, and this is despite unrewarding shortcuts being taken in resolving several subplots. There seems little point in introducing characters to the story if their outcomes are going to be skipped over with such little care: why should the audience feel shock, surprise, sadness or joy if we are given only the briefest suggestion as to what has happened?
The crucial final confrontation is lit, shot and edited with such skill as to make it entirely indecipherable. It can be only skill to so successfully achieve the director’s vision of making Cross and Picasso duke it out and leave the audience none the wiser as to what is going on. This is the most egregious example yet of the modern trend to make hand-to-hand combat as violent and nauseating for the viewer as for the combatants.
There is little to suggest this film version of James Patterson’s hero will have any more success in generating multiple sequels than the previous two starring Morgan Freeman. Adequate without being remotely memorable, this is one film happily left to dvd, but only if there’s little else on offer.Rating: