Reviewed by Ian Forbes
James Patterson is a popular author. Tyler Perry is a guaranteed box office draw. Matthew Fox is a likable actor who usually plays good guys. Rob Cohen has made a living directing mediocre action films. Put them all together and what do you get? Alex Cross. Is that a good thing? Well … no. In fact, it’s a terrible thing.
The failure starts with the screenplay. There’s less character development over the entire course of the movie than you get in standard television pilot episodes. The basic plot is what one might expect; it’s your standard ‘best-at-what-he-does’ detective versus an unpredictable assassin tale, with innocent lives lost along the way fueling the protagonist’s hate-fire. Within the course of a book, the broad strokes painted by the movie probably make some kind of emotional connection. Here, it’s like screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson took their cues from a cliff notes version of the book and filled in any gaps with cable TV tropes.
The problems in the script translate to a cast being stuck in a no-win scenario. After giving it some thought, Perry wasn’t necessarily a bad choice. The film attempts to create an emotional back story and the character of Alex Cross is more of a psychological bad-ass than a physical one so not going with a more imposing actor isn’t a big problem. Still, after seeing the final product, one has to assume the only reason this clunker is being released in theaters is the expected profit based on Perry’s loyal fan base, not because anyone should feel proud about the film.
Matthew Fox actually has a few good moments as the sociopathic assassin but he too is at the mercy of a script that would have Shakespeare’s third cousin spinning in their grave. Edward Burns, John C. McGinley, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno and Rachel Nichols are also billed in the movie but the lack of development so evident in the main characters only translates to even worse treatment for the supporting cast.
Putting the final nail in the coffin is director Rob Cohen. It’s no surprise he’s not concerned with character development; no one’s ever accused him of trying. But he’s done so many average action movies that one would think he’d understand how to film fight scenes. Apparently he forgot. It’d be entirely plausible to mistake the shaky-cam that nearly had me shouting out loud in frustration for an earthquake, until you realize the only things swaying and churning are the images on the screen. This almost made me long for the horrific camera work of The Hunger Games … almost.
There just simply isn’t any point to watching Alex Cross. It’s not a hard formula to follow and the filmmakers managed to get lost right from the beginning and were anything but close to the mark by the end. If you like Patterson’s books, stick to that medium and don’t be disappointed with what I have to assume is a ridiculous gutting of the source material. I haven’t read it so maybe it’s faithful to the events but I’d like to think any author would take the time within the course of a novel to develop back-stories and relationships so the reader can connect. Without that in the film, all one can hope for is decent action but that’s sorely lacking as well and this winds up being one of the worst movies I’ve seen in 2012.
Alex Cross hits theaters on October 19, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity.
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