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DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen
CAST: Tyler Perry, Edward Burns, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
ON ONE hand you are going to allow a lot of leeway to see whether Tyler Perry can pull off a serious role as Alex Cross. On the other, lack of direction and a slow-moving, cliched script kills this whole idea.
Alex Cross is supposed to be about a strong character, an African-American forensic psychologist who is opinionated about how African-Americans are treated by the criminal justice system and who excels at his job as a police detective.
Instead, so much attention is paid to the background – the regeneration of Detroit – that the character gets lost in the gorgeous, albeit decaying, architecture.
The book character of Alex Cross was created by James Patterson, and yes, it is the same character who appears in the Morgan Freeman movies Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.
Along Came a Spider was based on the first book in the series, in which Cross’ wife is already dead. This Tyler Perry film is loosely based on Cross, giving us the death of the wife, which serves as a kind of a set-up arch for the film character.
Cross (Perry) is tasked with investigating a series of murders which he quickly deduces are all leading up an an endgame involv- ing French businessman Leon Mercier (a chubby-looking Jean Reno doing an extremely lazy take on a super-rich French businessman).
Since the Cross character is supposedly an empathetic man who has just lost his wife to an act of violence, you could be forgiven for expecting a nuanced, interesting, tortured soul.
Instead we get Perry trying really hard to make a character out for revenge more than one-dimensional. He does not succeed. He spends so much time looking grim, serious and ready for action that he forgets about emotions like being sad because his wife’s died, or confused because he is morally compromised.
Matthew Fox sneers his way through the role of crazy assassin, drawing on every filmic trope associated with this stock charac- ter. And don’t even mention the police captain (played by John C McGinley), who seems to have stepped straight out of Bad Boys (but that’s an unfair comparison to the man who introduced the concept of “woosaa” into our vocabulary) but is totally not at home in this movie.
The story plays out against the backdrop of Mercier’s (remember the businessman?) plan to re-energise the economy of Detroit. So bring on the shiny big cars and oh, look, it’s a parking garage… full of shiny, big cars.
The big stand-off between Cross and the bad guy is set in a parking garage which used to be a cinema, and the faded architectural details – such as the moulded ceiling and the mosaic work – are distracting, because that was one boring fight scene.
By that stage, you just want Madea to come and knock some sense into everyone with her big handbag.
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