Zero stars (out of four)
Without referencing early 1990s rappers Kris Kross, I see no way to write a less-menacing tagline than the one on the poster for “Alex Cross”: “Don’t ever cross Alex Cross.”
This thriller plays like the copy of a copy of a '90s flick, so that what was once gripping becomes vague and unintentionally funny. As detective Dr. Alex Cross—that's really what people call him, due to his psych degree—Tyler Perry appears uninformed that movie cops usually deliver some measure of coolness or toughness. His energy level generally falls somewhere between “banker” and “banking student.” Perry accidentally gets laughs when an angry Cross calls everyone he doesn't like “maggot.” The actor's simply unable to play anything other than broad comedy or melodrama.
Meanwhile, Matthew Fox (“Lost”), playing the nameless assassin referred to as Picasso, makes a lot of crazy faces so we know he’s crazy.
Co-written by someone who co-wrote 2001's “Along Came a Spider” (the second and final time Morgan Freeman played the character created by James Patterson) and someone who helped out on the Schwarzenegger flick “Collateral Damage,” “Alex Cross” suggests that no one involved knows how thrillers are supposed to unfold. (Cross receives cop advice from his mother, for example.) Director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) includes sadistic violence against women while simultaneously objectifying them; a female character that at once seems important is half-heartedly disposed of as if she wouldn't be missed.
Part of Picasso's opportunity to strike occurs because Cross opts to take his pregnant wife (Carmen Ejogo of “Sparkle”) out for dinner even though he knows there's a killer on the loose. He’s no smarter as a father; Cross needs a reminder from his mom (Cicely Tyson) to console his daughter when tragedy strikes their family. He doesn't even talk to his son. Cross also suffers no guilt or consequences for compromising his integrity in the name of revenge.
Incompetent on every level, “Alex Cross” features motion sickness-inducing camera shaking that makes it impossible to see a climactic battle clearly. Ultimately it seems writers scrawled into the script, “Someone concocts a conspiracy or something,” but forgot to iron out the details.
The movie contains zero intensity and a rapport between Cross and his best friend/partner (Edward Burns) that reminded me of when Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) play fictional cops Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell in “Boogie Nights.” Obviously, all the best modern-day, Detroit-set thrillers recall campy, L.A.-set '70s B-movies made by porn stars.
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