There are not one, but two moments in the limp crime thriller Alex Cross where Tyler Perry corners a perp on the run and chides, “Is this really the way you want to die?” Meant to be sarcastically cutting and badass, it’s instead impossible not to imagine Perry in full-on Madea drag browbeating a dastardly deadbeat dad or a high-powered career woman. (Heck, it wouldn’t even be that difficult to change the DVD cover – put Perry in a dress, swap his shotgun for a pistol, and you could call it Tyler Perry’s Madea Chases a Serial Killer.) That’s the film’s problem in a nutshell: poor casting leads to unconvincing characters that spoil an otherwise serviceable premise about an unusually perceptive cop (Perry) pursuing vengeance against the murderer (Matthew Fox) terrorizing his co-workers and his family.
For Perry, stepping into the shoes of author James Patterson’s popular forensic psychologist – a role previously portrayed in two films by none other than Morgan Freeman – puts a formidable strain on his acting abilities. It’s hard to believe that someone took a look at Perry’s broad, stridently moralizing plays, films, and sitcoms, then expected him to be able to replicate the necessary gravitas and cooly articulated rage; this is a guy who struggles to put enough animus into the word “maggot.” Fox isn’t much better as Cross’ sinewy antagonist, a psychotic string bean who thoughtfully creates charcoal drawings of his murder victims that purposely contain embedded clues about his next hit. (A method to which the only proper response is: Huh?)
Alex Cross is undoubtedly a failure, but unfortunately not in a fascinating, trainwreck-y way. Besides being titanically miscast, it presents a depiction of Detroit conspicuously lacking in grit and inexplicably rich in wealthy foreign business tycoons and model-gorgeous Asian women. Director Rob Cohen (xXx) incorrectly assumes he’s making the next Se7en and creates visual clutter with unnecessary long takes and disorienting jump cuts that laughably attempt to establish Fox as a frightening presence. Though Alex Cross deservedly popped up on several lists of 2012’s least-loved films on the anti-strength of Perry’s lead performance, it’s only fair to note that just about everything else in the movie is equally unconvincing (i.e. Edward Burns as Perry’s detective partner in constant awe of his colleague’s amazing deductive skills). From top to bottom, it’s boring, banal, exploitative movie artifice at its worst.
– Audio commentary with director Rob Cohen
– The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting and Filming Alex Cross
– Deleted scenes