The only positive thing I can say about Alex Cross is that it will be invaluable to future generations looking for a textbook example of everything is wrong with the current studio system in Hollywood.
For starters, its a reboot of a franchise based on a series of novels. Writers Marc Moss (who penned the script for Along Came a Spider) and Kerry Williamson were brought on board to adapt the James Patterson novel. Or, more precisely, I should say they were brought on to collect a paycheck, since the story as presented is about as bland and forced as you can possibly imagine.
None of the characters have any depth. Most of the scenes are either filled with mindless action or forced exposition serving to set up the next bit of mindless action. Sadly, the action scenes aren’t even very good. There’s a fairly decent cage fighting scene featuring Matthew Fox’s character Picasso early in the film and a few average car chase sequences, but nothing you haven’t seen (done better) countless times before.
There’s a sequence during the film’s climax that is honestly the worst shot fight scene I’ve ever seen. Most modern directors use a shaky, handheld camera style to film battles, but there is typically an attempt to make sure the audience can follow the action. I challenge you to follow the climactic battle. The camera is so shaky and the editing so frantic that it’s impossible to track with anything that is happening.
The film is directed by Rob Cohen, who is best known for directing The Fast and The Furious. So you would expect him to be capable of delivering on the action, if not emotional depth or nuance. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Of course, the higher ups may not have been overly concerned with making good action scenes or a watchable movie. Based on the way the film is shot and edited, it seems that the primary concern was getting in as many product placements as possible. Skype and the iPhone get plenty of attention, but the film is essentially an hour and 40 minute commercial for Cadillac.
There’s a scene where Picasso is exiting a parking garage which is shown entirely from a low angled interior shot which can exist for no other reason than to show off the car. (Especially since the angle makes it impossible to actually see where he’s driving or anything else around him.)
The worst offender though is a pivotal scene between Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and Daramus Holiday (Giancarlo Esposito). Not only does the scene take place inside a Cadillac dealership, but Cross and Holiday actually go inside a classic Cadillac to have their private conversation. And, lest you forget where they are while admiring the interior of the car, a reflection of the giant Cadillac dealership sign is visible the entire time.
The casting in the film also seems dreamed up by a group of executives looking to maximize ticket sales.
Tyler Perry has become a powerhouse in Hollywood with his impressively bankable films and television shows. He’s a household name at this point. And it’s clear he was cast in the role because of that name recognition and not because he was the best candidate for the part. He’s all wrong for the role of Alex Cross. He’s is utterly unconvincing as a heroic or imposing figure. And at no point does he seem like any match for Picasso, who is much leaner, muscular and more convincing as a bad ass.
Everything Perry does in the film seems forced, like he’s trying to hard to make it work. There’s not much he can do to be more convincing as an action star, but even the emotional scene with him felt off. There’s really nothing he does well in the film.
Of course, the writers do him no favors either. Alex Cross is supposed to be a great cop and a genius profiler, but he comes up short in both regards in this adaptation. In an early scene, Cross is able to tell his wife every minor change that’s happened to her and the house since the last time he’s seen her, but when it counts, his profiling skills are completely unhelpful.
His early profile of Picasso turns out to be entirely wrong and even when he starts to figure out Picasso’s patterns later in the film, it’s never in time to actually stop him. The way he tracks down Picasso late in the film is actually a combination of luck and underhanded tactics, instead of profiling or actual police work.
Picasso is written no better. Matthew Fox was most likely cast because, like Perry, he has built-in audience recognition thanks to his stint on Lost. But while I like how he looked physically (he slimmed down and trimmed up considerably for the role), his performance and the character as a whole are both terrible.
Fox completely overacts throughout the film, using a nasally voice and a number of bizarre ticks and mannerisms that seem like a weird melange of things he’s seen other actors do in psychopath roles. And the character is completely inconsistent. He’s presented as unhinged and sadistic, but he’s also supposed to be a highly-sought-out hitman. I’m sorry, Hollywood, but you’re not hiring Hannibal Lecter to perform precision kills for you.
It’s the perfect storm of bad acting, bad storytelling, bad cinematography and a distractingly high amount of product placements. Sadly, though, it’s likely to still make money. And, considering the producers have already greenlit the sequel, it’s unlikely that Hollywood will change anytime soon.
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