We’ve been here before. In both 1997 and 2001 Morgan Freeman took on the role in two mediocre offerings (Kiss The Girls and Along Came a Spider), the best thing about which (you’ve guessed it) was Freeman himself. This time around The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen is on board and has made Tyler Perry his first mate. Why? Well I’m not quite sure, but I’ll get onto that.
The story, pieced together from a few different Cross books concerns a serial killer known as Picasso (Matthew Fox). A cage fighter who tortures and kills people for pleasure and inexplicably leaves cubist sketches behind at the murder scenes. Soon enough criminal profiler and all round man of action Alex Cross (Perry) is on the case. A lot of rather unpleasant stuff then unfolds, delivered with a consummate laziness that it’s terribly hard to engage with.
Matthew Fox is the films one ace in the hole. Rocking up from the gently dramatic pastures of Lost, his new (and startling) emaciated appearance is as suited to the character as it is casually interesting. He does a decent (if broad) fist of things that with better support could have been something truly interesting. Unfortunately, as with everything in this film, his performance is hamstring by Cohen’s uninspired direction and Marc Miss and Kerry Williamson’s uninspired words.
The script turns up the wow factor on everything in the quietest way possible. From Cross’ seemingly psychic ‘hunches’ to Fox’s sweaty sadism, everything is turned up to 11. It’s just a shame that someone forgot to plug in the speakers.
It seems to think it’s glossy and it’s about as callous as it gets with Cohen skimming over any semblance of depth with impunity. The violence is toned down and Picasso stealthily stakes out a funeral in a car that Flavor Flav wouldn’t be ashamed to be found dead in. It’s a bit like Alex Cross: Miami but instead of a smug Horatio Caine we’ve got a dunderheaded Tyler Perry for company.
He’s the walking talisman of Gospel Christian America wrapped up in a rather large skin suit. He stands for ‘family values and forgiveness and God etc. He makes terrible, terrible films about all of these things. He’s a remarkably successful man (read: the highest paid person in Hollywood) and this is mainly because he’s got his fingers in many pies when it comes to making his own films. He’s not as involved this time around. But that hasn’t stopped him entirely. The best Tyler Perry related thing in this movie is Tyler Perry. He’s not all that bad after all when it comes to screen presence. He’s not charismatic, but we know he’s there. So that’s nice.
What isn’t nice about his involvement is that he seems to have stuck one of his many pie coated fingers into the script. If I’m not mistaken he seems to have very much deliberately dropped a moral compass in. A moral compass that someone should most definitely have fished out immediately.
When you open a film with a lingerie clad woman getting tortured to death, your cards are on the table. We aren’t in for a thoughtful rumination on Confucius’ views on the futility if revenge (not that this stops the movie from preposterously quoting said views). If you’re going to give me exploitation, please, make it tacky, make it bloody and make it interesting. Alex Cross was only one of these things – and it wasn’t bloody and it bloody well wasn’t interesting.