Film review: Alex Cross falls short on plot and blood



There’s a moment near the end of Alex Cross when the titular hero (Tyler Perry), while chasing a hit-man known as Picasso (Matthew Fox) through an abandoned theater, steps on some old 35 millimeter film. It’s prophetic. The actors and, by extension, filmmakers are stepping on and destroying movies. Perhaps that observation is heavy-handed—even sanctimonious—but it’s hard not to make such pronouncements when watching a movie as loud, clumsy and inept as Alex Cross.

Earlier this year, some critics claimed The Bourne Legacy is the first movie devoid of story, but is simply one action set piece after another. At least it knows what it is. Alex Cross wants to be an action picture, family movie and buddy story all rolled into one. That it fails on every level is an achievement. Plot threads begin but don’t end; the villain has no purpose other than to be a movie villain; and how is torture so bloodless? To be PG-13. That’s how.

Here’s the story, not that it matters: Cross and his partner, Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), run afoul of Picasso, whom they figure hacked up a CFO and her bodyguards. Cross’ analysis of what happened at the crime scene is so accurate—he’s a Ph.D. in psychology in addition to being a detective—that it’s a little too easy. But the guy’s brilliant, so why quibble? Except perhaps we should quibble. Or the screenwriters should have. Because, after having a run-in with Picasso in which Cross, Tommy, and Tommy’s partner and girlfriend, Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), are all nearly blown to bits, Cross makes a crucial mistaken analysis. Picasso won’t hunt them down. He’s tracking someone else.

Clearly Cross as a Ph.D. candidate didn’t read any grade-B detective stories when he was writing his thesis. Neither did his academic advisers. The screenwriters did, though, and any avid filmgoer knows that Cross, his family and his pals better head for the hills, lest they be carved into smaller, deader versions of their previous selves.

That’s the biggest disappointment in Alex Cross. It’s so dumb and treats its audience with so little respect that it serves up something that’s not just reheated, but re-everythinged. Killer who makes it personal? Check. Family in peril? Check. Bad dialogue passing itself off as insightful? Check.

All these problems would be mitigated if Perry worked in the title role. He’s good in the family scenes, but he’s awkward stuffing a bag with ammunition or lumbering through an office carrying a shotgun. Spewing cop dialogue seems foreign to him, too, but because the dialogue is laughable, call it a draw.

There are a few small pleasures. Just seeing Cicely Tyson on screen is always welcome, as is John C. McGinley playing a person of authority (though he could do this part in his sleep). But Jean Reno, in a tiny role, is wasted. Of course, any actor that recognizable showing up in a bit part is there for plot reasons, but the reasons are stupid and contrived, just like everything else in Alex Cross.

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Alex Cross/PG-13, 102 minutes/Carmike Cinema 6

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