“Don’t ever cross Alex Cross”, is the brain-numbingly imbecilic tagline attached to this latest outing for the fictional protagonist of James Patterson’s series of books. A vehicle for Tyler Perry‘s own unique brand of profound banality, Alex Cross is the overcooked lasagne sheet of cinema; bland, flabby and tasteless. The shifting, pixelated title sequence both confuses me and hurts my eyes, a suitable introduction to this ever-deepening well of cinematic sludge. Littered with clunky dialogue and lazy film making, I left as depressed and deeply unsatisfied as the eponymous hero. And that’s saying something – his wife had just been murdered.
Alex Cross appears to be the perfect husband, father, cop, and psychoanalyst, when his cosy family life is blown to smithereens by Dr Cox in a baseball cap announcing a “Four Roses case”. Incidentally, we are never told exactly what “Four Roses” means – the first in a long line of lazily unexplained confusions. The murderer and lingerie-clad-woman-torturer in question is only identifiable through a Picasso-style drawing he left as a clue (a clue which Alex Cross solves immediately by folding it in half – HE HAS A PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE, GUYS!) Cue Tyler Perry delivering a short lecture on pop psychology whilst staring stoically out of a window with his head tilted slightly upwards and to the left. No surprise to anyone, this all turns out to be complete babbling bullshit. After reassuring his team that the psychopath would never be interested in getting revenge on the cops that thwarted him (NO???), Picasso tortures to death the brief love-interest of Cross’ partner, Rachel Nichols, who also does a great line in ‘sassy female cop’.
Cross then makes the psychology-schoolboy error of annoying said psychopath, who ups and shoots his pregnant wife. This leads to Tyler Perry going all vigilante with a sawn-off shotgun (he only fires one shot, and that shot hits a ladder…) Obviously, in this process of going rogue it seems crucial he should break into his own police station, and then make a deal with a local gangster who holds his business meetings in the back of stationary cars in public showrooms. VERY long story short, there is the predictable showdown between Cross and Matthew Fox‘s Picasso after the latter has blown up Dr Cox and his baseball cap with a rocket launcher from a tube train. But how can Tyler Perry possibly be expected to beat to a bloody pulp an ex-military-assassin-turned-bare-knuckle-cage-fighter? Excellent question, my friends! By kicking him in the gonads. Oh yes, even psychopaths have soft, sensitive bits. DON’T EVER CROSS ALEX CROSS!
Many have already expounded the theory that Tyler Perry is not the problem with this film. But they’re wrong. Tyler Perry is not the only problem. He is cursed with a script of abysmal proportions, with the off-the-cuff couple joke: “As I always say! The only problem being married to you is that you’re too short!” Oh Alex Cross, with your quirky, endearing wit, my knees are melting right off. To his credit, Perry does manage to look very sad and then very angry after his wife has been shot. Unfortunate for him, really, that he is so magnificently over-shone by the young Yara Shahidi, who really is the sole reason this film gets any star at all.
Having said that, Matthew Fox as a psychopath isn’t the worst thing in the world; he might even have found a nice niche as a skinny, straining serial killer now his Lost days are behind him. However, Fox’s constant head-shaking, as if one persistent fly keeps landing on the tip of his right ear, doesn’t equate as immediately to OH MY GOD, HE’S A PSYCHOPATH as Cohen obviously thinks it does. The most glaring oversight in a film supposedly about the psychology of criminals is the utter failure to assign Fox’s Picasso any legitimate motives for the tastelessly gruesome acts he perpetrates on women. When I emerged from my coma of stupefaction about how little I cared how the film ended, that was the point that I pondered.
When Alex Cross isn’t being lax, clumsy, or boring, it’s being downright unpleasant, presumably mistaking graphic gore for intelligent plot devices and subtle character development. I have generously spared you many of the most objectionable lines and inexplicable plot holes, but trust me, they are there. The ending is the incongruous pork pie atop the Knickerbocker Glory of confusion that is Alex Cross – Picasso’s motives remain obscured and Alex Cross returns to his bereaved family under some considerable moral flak concerning his recent actions. BUT DON’T YOU WORRY, because a sequel is already on the cards. HUZZAH! And what compelling and intelligent title has it been given? Double Cross. Superb work, humanity.