By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The publishing machine named James Patterson has had great success with a character named Alex Cross, best known to moviegoers as incarnated by Morgan Freeman in “Along Came a Spider” and “Kiss the Girls.”
The character’s a brainiac police psychologist, with the ability to “get into the mind” of a killer, the way fictional police psychologists do. As Morgan Freeman is getting a little old for this stuff, Hollywood deemed it time for a Cross reboot, and “Alex Cross” is the result.
So who steps into Morgan Freeman’s shoes? Funny story about that. After considering a few credible action-oriented performers, the franchise opted for Tyler Perry, the actor-writer-director-conglomerate best known for dressing up in cranky-lady drag in his hugely successful films about Madea.
Needless to say, there were ripples of discontent in the James Patterson fanbase. But it turns out Tyler Perry isn’t especially the problem with “Alex Cross,” although he doesn’t bring much zip to the party, either.
The movie’s just a run-of-the-mill crime picture, laced with plenty of violence and kink. By the way, the PG-13 rating is another disgrace for the movie ratings board: This is an extremely violent movie chock-full of torture and depravity, but hey — as long as they don’t show nudity or use one particular swear word, let the kiddies in.
Perry plays Alex Cross as a big, genial lug who makes the classic movie mistake of declaring, “I’m happy,” at an early moment in the story line. He’s got the wife, kids, another baby on the way, the respect of his peers, sure — but man, you don’t say something like that and tempt the screenwriting gods to bring down mayhem on your head.
But it comes, in the form of a movie psychopath who seeks to kill a French moneyman (Jean Reno) but also targets Cross. This killer is played by Matthew Fox, the former star of “Party of Five” and “Lost,” who always seems to be working extra hard in his movie roles to erase the memory of his TV work. He works too hard here also, although his physical transformation into a whippet-thin skinhead is convincing.
Cross’ team members are played by Edward Burns and Rachel Nichols, and his wife by Carmen Ejogo. It’s a measure of this film’s feebleness that Ejogo, who was electrifying in “Sparkle” a couple of months ago, is barely noticeable here.
You’d think that Detroit might present a fresh backdrop for a cop thriller, but director Rob Cohen (“Fast and the Furious”) doesn’t seem interested in much beyond setting up quick-cut action sequences.
And Tyler Perry is more teddy bear than tough cop. He doesn’t give a bad performance, but he also doesn’t register a strong personality, the way somebody like Steve McQueen or Denzel Washington would if they were in this kind of police thriller. Alex Cross demands that sort of instant authority, and alas, Tyler Perry doesn’t bring it.
“Alex Cross” (1 star)
Tyler Perry steps into the role of James Patterson’s literary police psychologist, here facing off with a psycho killer (Matthew Fox) out to torture people and create mayhem. Pretty feeble on all counts (it’s not entirely Perry’s fault that he doesn’t bring a strong presence), and far too violent to explain the PG-13 rating.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Sundance, Woodinville and Cascade Mall theaters.