Author James Patterson has been writing about his infamous detective, Alex Cross, for several years now. So far, there have been 17 books and three film adaptations. Now I’ve never read a single one of his popular novels, but I have seen the films. Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider were interesting mysteries, and while they may not have been particularly great films, at the very least they had the great Morgan Freeman as the brooding, contemplative detective. Now we come to the third adaptation, simply titled Alex Cross, which no longer features Freeman. If it was Freeman who opted not to come back, it seems he knew exactly when to jump ship. However, if it was the filmmakers who decided to replace him, then they couldn’t have made a bigger mistake.
As the film opens, we find Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) going about his normal job. He has a wife (Carmen Ejogo) and two kids at home and is considering taking an FBI profiling job now that his wife is pregnant with their third child. Meanwhile, a psychotic serial killer, Picasso (Matthew Fox), has been going about trying to kill various people that are all connected to a businessman, Leon Mercier (Jean Reno). Of course, Cross gets assigned to the case and must use all of his amazing skills as a detective to hunt down and stop the killer before he can take out any more of his targets.
The problems surrounding Alex Cross basically fall into three main areas. First, there’s the casting. Who in their right mind thought Tyler Perry would be a good choice to play Detective Cross? We’re talking about the same man who puts on a dress and makes the horribly-unfunny “Madea” films, so as to how his name even came up in the first place is a huge mystery. Perry doesn’t bring any pizazz to the character and merely ends up being flat and bland, which is interesting given that Patterson himself says that Perry is closer to what he envisioned for the character. His vision for his own creation was flat and bland? Originally Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) was attached before Perry. We can only imagine how things could have been different had that casting followed through.
This is not to say that all of the casting is bad. Matthew Fox (Lost) does a decent job as the psychotic villain. He lost a lot of weight for the role, giving himself a creepier look, and brings an interesting touch of lunacy to the part. Aside from Fox, we also have Jean Reno, Cicely Tyson, and Giancarlo Esposito in small supporting roles. However, when I say “small,” I really mean it. These three merely have a couple of minutes on screen each, making it a rather big waste to get such talent.
The second main problem is the direction from Rob Cohen. Looking back at Cohen’s filmography, the guy doesn’t exactly have a great track record, having directed such films as The Fast and the Furious, xXx, Daylight, and Stealth. He approaches Alex Cross as though he’s trying to make it overly-realistic. He starts off in a calm manner, but when things get rough, he has the camera flying all over the place, which becomes very distracting when you’re trying to concentrate on what’s going on. This isn’t a big disaster movie like Cloverfield. There’s no reason for the camera to be jiggling around in an obnoxious manner.
Now we come to what is perhaps the biggest problem the film faces: the plot. I don’t think they could have come up with something any more generic than this. A killer is on the loose and Cross has to catch him, with the killer playing mind games with him in the meantime. Does this not sound like every other serial killer mystery we’ve seen? The screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson is very lazily written, using as many clichés as possible.
What’s particularly frustrating is the way they structure the film. Picasso spends the film trying to kill off several businesspeople, but it isn’t until the last five minutes that we find out why. For some reason, the writers decided to cram the plot into those final minutes, after everything is resolved, instead of letting it develop naturally throughout the film. So not only have we had no reason to care up to that point, we also have to be subjected to their desperate attempt to make up for it at the last minute.
Alex Cross just ends up being filled with one bad idea after another, from the poor casting choice of Tyler Perry to the terrible direction of Rob Cohen to the extremely generic story. It’s supposedly been announced that another Alex Cross movie is on the way, with Perry once again playing the lead. If that’s so, then those behind it have learned nothing from this film. Perhaps it’s not too late to get Idris Elba on the phone for some fast negotiating.
Turning to the technical aspects of the disc, the film is presented in a 1080p, 2.40:1 HD transfer that is clear and sharp for the most part. There were times that it could have used a little more polishing, but overall, it looks pretty good. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, so you have to turn it up a bit to hear, but it too is of pretty good quality.
As for special features, it comes with the following:
- Audio commentary with director Rob Cohen
- The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting and Filming Alex Cross
- Deleted Scenes
Starting with the commentary with director Rob Cohen, a sampling shows that he has some interesting things to say about the characters (though it becomes rather hard to take him seriously after he calls the casting of Tyler Perry “brilliant”). The featurette about the adaptation and filming of the movie features some interviews with cast and crew, as well as Patterson himself, talking about the various characters and how they were brought to the screen. The only extra that’s not really worth your time is the smattering of deleted scenes. This merely features four or five tiny pieces of scenes that were removed from the film. Needless to say, they were not missed.
Overall, Alex Cross is just plagued with too many problems to be able to recommend it. There are some decent special features here, but they don’t even begin to make up for the film itself. If there really is to be another film in the Cross series, I sincerely hope that they take at least a few lessons from this entry. The story cannot be treated as an afterthought, nor can it be this transparent. Problems with casting is one thing, but if you don’t get that foundation right, then there’s little hope that things will turn out well.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Alex Cross is an extremely generic detective story plagued with problems ranging from the poor casting of Tyler Perry to Rob Cohen's bad direction.