James Patterson’s most famous creation once again gets the movie treatment, although this time it’s not the ever dependable Morgan Freeman in the titular role, but Tyler Perry, a largely unknown actor on this side of the pond. This film represents what the makers hope will be the first in a new franchise and as such sets up the world accordingly. Perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered.
The main thrust of the story is the hunt for the killer, who is believed to be targeting the head of a large conglomerate for reasons unknown. Throughout the course of the film, something happens to make it that much more personal for Detective Cross, and then the film becomes more of a revenge thriller. No-one says ‘this time it’s personal’ but it’s the type of film that if they had, you wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, that sort of on-the-nose statement happens quite a lot in the first half hour of the film. For example, at a crime scene the killer has left a clue. Any regular person would never figure out the clue, but this is Alex Cross; cop, doctor, psychologist and perhaps a little clairvoyant as well. Now, a character that is presented as super smart isn’t a problem, but when we’re constantly being told rather than shown this, the result becomes almost comical. The script is full of clunkers of this nature, and every character in the first half an hour, especially his buddy from grade school partner (seriously?), is basically saying ‘Alex Cross is really smart and good at police stuff.’ Ok, we get it.
The major problem the film has though is that although there are exciting things happening, nothing in the film ever gets you excited. Everything seems very pedestrian and tepid, and for most of the running time criminally dull. The films biggest set piece has more of a ‘is that it?’ feels to it rather than the exhilarating denouement you would expect from an action film. It’s mostly the cast that are to blame, delivering their lines without any sort of conviction or emotion, and most are just there as plot contrivances to spur on Alex. Tyler Perry is however decent enough in the lead role; he’s a warm, likeable presence. The scenes with his family or his partners show he can play the relaxed, gentle side of the character very well, but in scenes where he’s required to convey anything other than that, he struggles. Matthew Fox is decent also, but hardly memorable in the role of the killer, although he seems to have thought the best way to make your villain seem like a psychotic is to give him the crazy staring eyes.
The direction leaves something to be desired as well; as with Taken 2 earlier in the year, this has been edited down to a 12A, so all of the edges have been rounded off leaving the film rather toothless as a result. In fact, whenever anything is on screen that might be construed as violent or distressing, the picture takes on certain fuzziness so we can’t see what’s going on. Good films can leave the grisly details to your imagination, but this is not a good film; instead of making you wince, it only serves to highlight how amateurish the whole production is. I’ve seen episodes of CSI that were more disturbing that this.
However, it’s not the disaster a lot of reviews have been saying it is, but it certainly won’t set the box office alight, and I can’t foresee it getting the sequels it appears to have been set up for. Watch the Morgan Freeman ones instead.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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