Answer this question: how did “Alex Cross” get a wide theatrical release? By all rights this film should have skipped over that entire process and gone straight to video without passing “Go” or any of the other clichés. Is it solely because of Tyler Perry? If so, good for him, because this movie has nothing else going for it. Okay, that’s not entirely true. “Alex Cross” is often hilarious, though unintentionally so. It’s like watching a caricature of an action movie. You keep waiting for a punch line that never comes.
If you’re looking for a competent action movie, don’t go see “Alex Cross”. However, if you’re looking for a movie that is amazing in a totally shitty way, one where you can bask in 101 minutes of ceaseless, utter absurdity, then this film can be a decent amount of fun (though it may be best seen through heavy beer goggles, and with a large group of likeminded fools). “Alex Cross” is the kind of movie that could have used a sniper rifle, but chooses a handheld rocket launcher instead. There is not an ounce of subtlety, no precision at all, and it is as plain as a kick in the nuts.
The script is maddening in its simplicity, and borders on nonsensical. Obvious dialogue—for example, the titular detective (Perry) and his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) talk about being BFFs since kindergarten, a lot—transparent plot devices, and the most tenuous premise, sets up a cat an mouse game between Cross and a never-named assassin (Matthew Fox), where every instance of overwrought emotion and attempt to be serious is good for a laugh. Maybe this says more about me that the movie, but a man holding his dying wife in his arms, pleading with bystanders to call 911, shouldn’t make an entire theater burst out laughing.
See, Alex Cross has the perfect life. He’s a doctor, but in an action doctor kind of way, like Indiana Jones, only with a trench coat instead of a fedora and bullwhip. His lovely wife (Carmen Ejogo) is pregnant again, his sassy but loving mother (Cicely Tyson) lives with them, he has friends, he’s well liked and respected professionally, and he’s about to start a sweet new job profiling criminals for the FBI. Everything is coming up Alex Cross. But this is a movie after all, so you know that won’t last.
Perry isn’t your typical action hero, which is one thing I initially liked about “Alex Cross”. Not some super ripped heartthrob with a six-pack and chiseled jaw line, he’s a little chubby, and just a normal, amiable guy you want to root for. It would have been nice to see a guy who actually feels like an average Joe, not what Hollywood tells you is an average Joe, in the lead in a movie like this. Unfortunately, Cross is a touch too jolly, too perfect, and with his uncanny ability to know everything—“he can tell you had scrambled eggs at 100 paces”—you never buy it.
Fox’s nameless hitman is another beast entirely. While Perry comes across too jovial, almost surprised that he’s in this movie, Fox is all twitchy overacting all the time. Every shot is a composition of bulging eyes, clenching jaw, and a pulsating collection of veins throbbing in his forehead. “Alex Cross” doesn’t care about motivation any deeper than he’s “fascinated by pain,” and the film gives him a series of traits that it thinks makes him unique and interesting. He does pull-ups until he screams when he’s angry, draws pretty pictures at murder sites, and, even though he’s a gun-for-hire not a serial killer, he leaves clues about his next target. You know the script thinks all of this says something meaningful about the character, but the forced quirks add up to nothing.
All of these flaws, and so many more, can be forgiven in an action movie if only the action delivers. And the action in “Alex Cross” does not deliver. Every fight is a janky, jumbled mass of close up shots and frantic edits. They’re blurry, shaky, and the frames are so full of crap that you can’t tell what the hell is going on. Bodies and limbs swirl about, then something happens and it’s over. And again, the film tries to be cute and clever, like early on when Fox penetrates a high-security building by swimming up the water pipes, but never delivers what it sets out to.
Things just happen in “Alex Cross”, and everything that takes place does so on the most surface level possible. Everything about this movie screams direct-to-video, and if Tyler Perry weren’t the star, this would be a minor blip on the home market, and probably feature a professional wrestler. If you absolutely must watch “Alex Cross”, do yourself a favor and get drunk first.