Say “Heller!” to the new Alex Cross. The last time we saw the forensic detective on screen he looked a lot like Morgan Freeman. This time out, in the new thriller “Alex Cross,” he looks a lot like a famous mischievous grandma named Madea.
Tyler Perry has stepped into the role and where Freeman played the character with a gravitas and dignity in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider,” Perry brings a stoicism to Cross that may make the character very attractive to woodpeckers.
Cross is a modern day Sherlock Holmes, a know-it-all who inspires his co-workers to say things like, “Just once I would like it if you got something wrong, ‘cuz this is getting annoying.” When a young, wealthy woman turns up dead, her house littered with murdered security guards, Cross begins to untangle the clues which will lead him to the crazed killer (a skeletal Matthew Fox). As he gets close, he makes a rare mistake in judgment that ends up changing his life.
I’m not a fan of picking apart a movie on the finer details. If the story is really clicking along I think audiences will be engaged enough in the plot to accept some irregularities. “Alex Cross,” however, never connects, so all the story’s inconsistencies suddenly become blinding. For instance, bad guys swapping cars to avoid being followed is nothing new, but here it rings false because the second car is a cab waiting to pick him up in a remote indoor parking garage. In a good movie it would be a blip. Here it contributes to the overall feeling of disbelief.
Disbelief aside, the problems are many, starting with a script peppered with dialogue that sounds TV movie ready. Ed Burns plays a cop whose girlfriend describes him as “just the kind of guy my father told me to avoid,” and later a character advises, “you don’t play the game, the game plays you.” It doesn’t feel like a script, it feels more like a greatest hits of the most over-used lines in movie history. The only cliché that goes unused is, “I’m too old for this ****,” but with the movie’s sequel-ready ending, I’m sure screenwriters are already crafting that line into “Alex Cross 2: My Name’s Not Madea.”
The main problem, the nine hundred pound elephant in the room, though, is Perry. It’s next to impossible to buy into the actor as an action star, let alone one so wooden that I found myself staring at his skin, searching for knots. He’s not given much to work with, that’s for sure, but nor does he elevate the material.
“Alex Cross” is the kind of movie that makes you wish Morgan Freeman was twenty years younger, and still agreeable to chasing down bad guys.