October 19, 2012

Alex Cross

They call me The Smoke Monster

Grade: D
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, John C. McGinley, Cicely Tyson and Jean Reno
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

It’s sadly appropriate that the penultimate act in Alex Cross, an interloper on the launch of the long-awaited award movies season, takes place in a derelict cinema (here, the ruins of the once-opulent Michigan Theater in Detroit). This anything-but-thrilling thriller is an example of the sort of Hollywood tripe that is steering increasingly more movie watchers toward Redbox and away from the cineplex. “Eight bucks to watch Tyler Perry…out of drag? No thanks, I’ll just wait for the DVD.”

Picking up the tottering mantle once carried by Morgan Freeman in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, Perry stars in a story loosely adapted from James Patterson’s twelfth novel featuring the titular Ph.D-educated homicide detective. For reasons that aren’t even clear by the time the closing credits roll, there’s a hired hit man (an emaciated Matthew Fox, “Lost” in more ways than one) targeting Detroit’s one-percenters. Resembling a humanoid praying mantis and going by such varying monikers as “The Butcher of Sligo” and “Picasso,” the sadistic killer has a predilection for mixed martial arts and charcoal sketching when he isn’t drugging and dismembering his prey.

Despite supplying subtle clues that virtually beg the police to track his murderous cat-and-mouse spree, Picasso flips his lid when Cross and Co. actually thwart one assassination in a high-rise shootout. So, Picasso starts targeting the cops…or at least female cops and the female significant others of male cops. So, this IS a Tyler Perry movie, after all.

Cross and his partner/best bud Tommy (Edward Burns) get strapped and go rogue, stealing homicide evidence (collected against an innocent suspect, we’re conspicuously informed) to trade for information about Picasso. Amidst a clutter of cliché, we meet inconsequential characters like John C. McGinley’s stock police captain (someone tell me whether he’s alive or dead) and a French industrialist played by Jean Reno, who apparently absorbed all the calories Fox shed.

Perry seems most at ease where you’d expect: personal family moments like sharing the joy of his wife’s new pregnancy or the give-and-take with his sassy “Nana Mama” (Cicely Tyson). It’s when he has to start expanding his emotions or chasing bad guys that the portly Perry runs into real peril. So, director Rob Cohen trots out the annoying shaky cam, its worst application being during a climactic grapple in which Perry’s haymakers must have looked like feather pillows without some digital obfuscation.

I still don’t know what is more unbelievable: the implausible timing required for the hit launched from a moving People Mover, or the final scene confessions of a villain lacking any necessity to spill his guts. Or maybe it’s that a movie so conspicuously sponsored by Cadillac includes a plot point that could discourage people from buying a car equipped with OnStar.

Besides Fox, who appears as though he prepared for completely different movie, the rest of the cast lifelessly yammers through the already insipid script as though it was their first read-through. Perhaps it was, since any sensible actor would have fled Alex Cross immediately after rehearsal and sought out more highbrow fare…like a cross-dressing comedy.

No comments: