Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Marc Moss (“Along Came a Spider”) and Kerry Williamson (debut)
Confession: I’ve read every single book featuring the character Alex Cross that has been published so far. Created by prolific author James Patterson, the character Alex Cross is a detective/psychiatrist working homicide for the police department in Washington, D.C. His keen intellect and unparalleled ability to get inside a killer’s head makes Cross the best choice to hunt down the most brutal, creative, and intelligent serial killers that turn up in and around D.C. In doing so, he often risks the safety of his family (his children and his frail-yet-sassy grandmother Nana Mama). Novels like “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” and “Jack and Jill” were tight thrillers featuring villains with unique nursery rhyme-derived hooks. The character was a hit and the two former books were adapted into motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman. Alas, financial success demanded someone to churn out more Cross-based movies. But after at least 15 more books, the character of Alex Cross is tired and threadbare. He is merely going through the motions. Once a year or so, there is Cross ready to stop another grisly weirdo murdering hookers or businessmen. All the while, Nana Mama seems eternally perched at death’s door. Even today, I still find myself reading every new book despite how predictable and boring the series has become.
More than a decade after Morgan Freeman’s cinematic turn as Cross fizzled out, a reboot was in order. Billed as being an adaptation of the 12th book in the series, “Alex Cross” stars Tyler Perry as a more age-appropriate Cross. Set in the crumbling decay once known as Detroit (and featuring copious product placement from General Motors), the film pits Cross and his partner (Edward Burns) against an assassin known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a twitchy psychopath who leaves abstract charcoal drawings behind after he kills. When Picasso makes his crimes personal for the detectives, Cross sets aside his own moral code in an attempt to track down the killer.
As an adaptation of a late-period Alex Cross novel, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) has at least stayed true to the spirit of the book and kept the film very dull. Perry, best known for his terrible movies wherein he dresses as an old woman and teaches vaguely churchy lessons to awful women, tries his best as Cross, but the humdrum script and murky direction do him no favors. Cross begins the film written as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, all spot-on deductions and poor social skills, only to be forgotten in the second half of the film when he becomes a vengeful badass. It’s this transition, however, that proves to be the best few minutes of the film. As Cross saws off the barrel of his shotgun and marches out the door covered in ammo and firearms to hunt down Picasso, the stern Nana Mama confronts him in order to make him reconsider his actions as a family man. Somehow there’s real tension and heart on display. Best of all, Nana Mama is played by Cicely Tyson and not Tyler Perry in drag.