Sigh of the “Cross”
Popular James Patterson character Alex Cross has been brought to the screen twice before, in 1997′s “Kiss the Girls” and 2001′s “Along Came a Spider”. Though Cross is described in the novels as a big, physical man in his 40s, Morgan Freeman brought his typical brand of wizened gravitas to the character and to those twisty, logic-bending Patterson narratives.
In “Alex Cross”, a franchise reboot starring Hollywood powerhouse Tyler Perry as the titular detective/psychologist, Cross is made out to be something of a Sherlock Holmes. “Just once I want you to be wrong”, says his beleaguered partner (Edward Burns, equally beleaguered) after one of Cross’ typically bouts of deduction.
But with the BBC’s mind-blogglingly clever “Sherlock” and the recent American adaptation “Elementary” already giving audiences their Holmes fix, that leaves “Alex Cross” struggling to find a new angle on the character. And it doesn’t help that the plot – which wasn’t taken from any single Patterson book, but could have been rehashed from any number of vigilante movies – is woefully, well, elementary.
The film is essentially an extended manhunt pitting Detective-Doctor Cross against a madman – or, as the screenplay puts it, a “stimulus-seeking sociopathic narcissist with a narrow focus”. It soon becomes clear that this sociopath has room in his narrow focus for one more, namely Cross himself. Completely shedding his good-guy image, as well as 35 pounds, for the role, Matthew Fox goes the full psycho. He’s the kind of twitchy, wide-eyed movie madman that gets a kick out of the pain he causes victims – though, the film’s PG-13 rating leaves his character somewhat neutered.
Some terrible things happen in “Alex Cross”, to be sure, but the worst may be the lazy handling of this material. With 25 years worth of Patterson books to choose from, there must have been a better, more original story out there than the one culled together here by writers Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson. Rob Cohen’s phoned-in direction doesn’t help, though there isn’t much he could have done to save the film.
Tyler Perry is a commanding, charismatic actor who – with his impressive cinematic track record – should have known that the script was subpar. It’s all over-baked dialogue, poorly-drawn characters and black-and-white situations. There’s not a single surprise here with the exception of the wasted talent on display. And it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.