In Alex Cross, the title character, homicide detective Alex Cross (played by Tyler Perry), is on the hunt for deranged assassin “Picasso” (Matthew Fox), who specializes in torturing his victims before killing them.
While in the line of duty, Alex and his team get into Picasso’s crosshairs and become his new target, only to have Cross’ wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo), murdered instead.
Being that this is a film starring Perry — not presented by Perry as writer, director, producer, and star — expectations are low for Cross. However, like most Hollywood actors who find themselves in a professional slump, Perry is attempting to associate himself with a different brand that doesn’t involve him wearing a dress. Cross could potentially represent the beginning of a franchise that will usher Perry into a respectable acting career.
In the meantime, Cross lends itself to being a slow-burn procedural drama that takes a seemingly perfect setup and blows it to bits.
Written by screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson (based on the bestselling James Patterson novel Cross), the film attempts to introduce the audience to a man who is a happy father and husband looking to make a better life for his family — at first.
Looking at director Rob Cohen’s previous body of work, which includes Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Fast and the Furious, XXX, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, it’s safe to say that his directing prowess is hit-or-miss.
So it seems that the odds are stacked against Perry and Cohen. Alas, Moss’ and Williamson’s script has some holes in the plot, rendering the film with a feeling of incompleteness.
Thankfully, Cohen had the sense to put together an unconventional cast so that audience members would be intrigued enough to give Cross a chance. The film is just good enough to wipe the stench of Madea’s Witness Protection from Perry’s resume, but doesn’t share enough about the characters for there to be a real, franchise-making connection.
Making Fox the psychotic Picasso seems a stroke of casting genius: He’s scary good. On first inspection, Picasso comes off as a smooth businessman. It’s once he starts twitching that Picasso’s victim and his audience realize too late that there’s something dastardly wrong upstairs.
If only Moss and Williamson had given Picasso a driving force or a back story, rather than leaving it in the air for the audience to guess. Viewers will want to know why and how a man can take a life with such quickness and torture women just for being in the wrong place without feeling remorse.
This guessing game may have worked for the Joker in Dark Knight but doesn’t for Picasso. Leaving his identity a question mark leaves Alex Cross lacking.
Perry as Cross was a little sketchy in his acting and dialogue, at first. It’s hard to distance his being a comedy actor. It also seemed a bit hard for Perry to show that he has chemistry with his onscreen wife. Chemistry is important since the filmmakers want the audience to believe that Cross is heartbroken after Picasso offs his wife.
Having said that, Perry’s turn as Cross is a respectable first try at doing something different. Should Alex Cross get picked up as a franchise, there’s no doubt that Perry will come into his own as the character.
Cicely Tyson as Alex’s mother Nana Mama is a refreshing gem as Cross’ conscience.
She is the good that has to penetrate Cross’ psyche when Picasso begins to play mind games to make him bad. Edward Burns as Alex’s best friend and partner Tommy Kane is the perfect sidekick. Yet it seems that Moss and Williamson didn’t see the need to make Tommy a fleshed-out character, which is a disservice to Burns and the film.
Despite Alex Cross being a respectable effort and an entertaining thriller from Cohen, there seems to be more to the story that the audience is privy to. It’s almost as if Cohen has made it so, so that audiences will be intrigued enough to see Alex Cross 2 — which is a good strategy.
There’s enough buildup to make Perry’s Cross relatable, even likable. However, better use of minor characters is imperative to making a more engaging film.