Release Date: October 19th, 2012 (US); November 30th, 2012 (UK)
Genre: Action; Crime; Mystery
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Idris Elba probably wouldn’t have been able to overcome the painfully generic plot or the less-than-enthusiastic dialogue here, but at least he would’ve added some degree of watchability as the lead. Initially cast as Detroit lieutenant Alex Cross, Elba inevitably dropped out and was replaced by Tyler Perry (perhaps Elba caught wind of the script). It’s not that the fairly unknown Perry doesn’t try, or even that Matthew Fox’s outlandish Derren Brown-lookalike villain is overly-wacky (at least he diverges slightly from the unequivocal pit of monotony). Rather, Alex Cross offers nothing we haven’t seen before, and nothing we haven’t seen done much, much better.
Alex Cross is a police lieutenant, psychologist, father, husband and soon-to-be FBI profiler (if he takes the job… he’s going to take the job, right?). Along with his partner Tommy (Edward Burns), Cross is assigned a case that involves tracking down a viscous hitman known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), who is wanted for murder. Picasso’s objectives are murky at best — what is his definitive goal? Is he targeting Cross? Why is he cage fighting? — but Fox’s bizarre portrayal of the maniac skinhead is just about enough to divert attention in the early parts. However the road of attentiveness must reopen at some point, and when it does the villain’s nonsensical behaviour is exposed with shortcomings flailing all over the tarmac.
Maybe Picasso’s purpose did become clear towards the conclusion, but i cannot recall any explanation with confidence, and this indicates one of the glaring problems present: the film is incredibly unmemorable. Some particularly dreary outings are noted for their particular dreariness (take Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana, for instance) however Alex Cross fails to even fall into that category. If mild pepper eating was a contest, Alex Cross would represent the second mildest pepper on the menu — what’s the point in trying the pepper of penultimate blandness when there’s a mellower one there that’ll probably be even more tasteless and will leave your mouth drier, but hey, at least it’ll be a conversation starter the next time a friend asks about the least-hot pepper you’ve ever eaten (and that will happen). There is a distinct deficiency in direction, an inspiration inadequacy. The only characteristic prominent in abundance is mediocrity at its lacklustre worst.
To go in tandem with the vacuum of creativity on display is a collection of head-scratchingly obvious dialogue and a number of coincidences that would give Bilbo Baggins single-handedly slaying an army of orcs a run for its money in the ‘inability to suspend audience disbelief’ category. After spending a significant portion of the film looking for leads on the whereabouts of Picasso, Cross lets us know, “I’m just looking for leads”. At one point Cross and his team are trying their damnedest to convince hotel security that an important German businessman staying there is in danger due to a criminal at large, and then out of nowhere a criminal at large whose target is a German businessman appears. These are only two examples of a severe lack of urgency; urgency both away from the action/thriller norms, and in terms of effort put in by the creative minds.
The criminality unfortunately ceases from stopping there: tension is non-existent; some CGI effects are off (watch out for the flaming man); excessive camera-jerking during fight scenes makes it extremely difficult to follow the action; characters are either underused, underdeveloped or utterly unnecessary (the female prisoner at the beginning, what was that all about?). Perhaps the greatest crime of all is giving Giancarlo Esposito, who exhales charisma, a whimsical two-minute cameo… and it’s still probably the best part of the film.
No, the most entertaining aspect of the film is actually an external story attached to it, completely unrelated to the narrative piece itself: Alex Cross was shown on a number of United Airlines flights travelling around America, resulting in several passenger complaints due to its inappropriate placement on board and subsequent screening in the company of underage children. Director Rob Cohen, offering his sympathies and apologies to those involved, gave his two cents as he explained the PG-13 rating meant it should not be shown in general cabin areas. Trust me Rob, the non-child compatibility is far from why Alex Cross should not be shown on flights.
As scathing as this review is, and let’s be honest, nobody involved in Alex Cross will give this a glance never mind a care, I feel it is warranted given the filmmakers spent $35 million on its creation. Gareth Edwards shot his 2010 debut Monsters for less than $500,000, and it is a galaxy ahead of Rob Cohen’s output here. Edwards is currently directing Godzilla, arguably the most anticipated blockbuster set for release next summer. Cohen might be in the running for an Alex Cross sequel.
“This is over right?”
“No it ain’t Tommy, it ain’t over.”
I wish it was.