Sunday, December 9, 2012

Alex Cross - 2012

"Alex Cross" - 2012
Dir. by Rob Cohen - 1 hr. 41 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I guess it's true that in Hollywood, writers don't count for much.  James Patterson topped all authors this year by earning $94 million, which is about four times as much as this "Alex Cross" movie (based on his series of books) made at the box office.  Without having read any of the source material, I find it difficult to believe that Patterson would have released this tepid of a movie, if he'd had any say in the matter.  And yet, here we have "Alex Cross," a film that seems to completely ignore pretty much any strengths anyone involved with the making of this film might have.

Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is a profiler whiz, working with the Detroit Police Department.  This is what we learn about Cross: he's super-smart, he's a family man (living with his grandmother, wife, and two kids under one roof), he plays by the rules, and he inspires confidence from his co-workers (except his boss, played by John C. McGinley, who seems more concerned with a future political career than with what's immediately in front of him.  Cross and his partner, Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), are called in to investigate a multiple homicide in a ritzy part of town, which turns out to be the work of a twitchy professional killer named Picasso (Matthew Fox).  Cross catches onto the plot, and tries to foil Picasso's paid-for plan to kill a wealthy entrepreneur who has an ambitious plan to revitalize Detroit.

In many ways, it's a lot easier to pick apart a film that doesn't work than it is to prop it up, but it's not my role to make excuses for a film like "Alex Cross."  One of the big problems with this film is the characterization of Cross.  Great lengths are gone to early in the film to show him as being able, giving, and understanding.  Unfortunately, these are all done in a short-hand manner that doesn't really put these traits on display.  The old adage is to "show, not tell," and while we see Cross trying to lure the truth out of a teen-aged prisoner who is taking the rap for someone else, I had a difficult time buying into that aspect of Cross.  I do think that Tyler Perry did a reasonably good job with this character, and I do think that he took the opportunity very seriously.  But the scene in question has Perry trying to play the wise uncle/therapist role to a prisoner, and it doesn't come off as genuine.  Part of it is too hamfisted; Perry's trying to coax the girl into giving up her relative (who has two strikes already), but his attempt to play confidant to the girl doesn't jibe with the fact that he's trying to get info out of her to put away the real criminal.

So let's get SPOILER-heavy now.  After Cross has been established (in a unconvincing way) to be super-good at his job and to be a family man who plays by the rules (even chiding his partner for having an affair that runs counter to department rules), he runs afoul of Picasso, who then murders both the woman that Tommy was having an affair with AND Cross' pregnant wife to exact revenge on Cross.  Alex's reaction to these events are borderline insane (even if you count Picasso calling Cross and taunting him about it); he goes rogue.  He starts engaging in behavior that you might expect out of a policeman in a James Ellroy book or from Vic Mackey.  Cross pulls a complete 180 (with the aid of his partner), which either invalidates the first half of the film, or shows a loose grasp of all of the characterization that's already occurred.  I get that the events that take place over the course of the movie are supposed to "change" Alex Cross, but considering I didn't fully buy into his character in the first place, this change doesn't work for me.

Another large part of the problem that I had with "Alex Cross" is that Matthew Fox is absolutely terrible here.  He opts to play his character as if he's had an urn too much of coffee; he's all tics and twitches, and in a way that feels absurdly artificial.  His acting is showy in all the wrong ways; instead of making him come off like he's deranged or something (which runs counter to how the character is written), it makes him seem like he's not sure of himself and constantly on the verge of breaking down (which completely undermines the way the character is written).  This is not the recipe for making a credible villain, which also affects Alex Cross' "turn."  If the villain isn't credible and a terrible threat (which is how I see things here), then Cross himself is bowing to incredibly weak pressure when he abandons his beliefs in order to hunt down Picasso.

But my biggest gripe about "Alex Cross" is that the movie doesn't play to anyone's strengths.  Tyler Perry can be an intimidating physical presence on-screen, and even in scenes that have him involved physically with other actors, it's not really traded on.  Director Rob Cohen is known for action movies like "The Fast and the Furious" and "xXx," but the action in "Alex Cross" seems heavily outweighed by scenes of Tyler Perry either happily interacting with his family or mourning them.  And the action scenes that do exist aren't anything special; I actually laughed out loud when an explosion launched a single burning body towards the screen.  It just feels like no one present here brought anything special to the mix; you wouldn't have gotten a drastically different film if it had starred Orlando Jones and was directed by Michael Bay.

"Alex Cross" is a blown opportunity.  If you take a popular actor (and Perry has his following) and a popular book franchise and still can't break even on the film, someone screwed up along the way.  There's enough blame to go around: shoddy story, a director known for action trying to do a lot of character scenes, not much care given to keeping a character consistent, bad acting...  Sigh.  That's really the only response that matters here.  Instead of a good (or even decent) movie, "Alex Cross" ended and I sighed, unsatisfied.

1.5 / 5 - Theatre

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