Day 162: Alex Cross

"I will meet his soul at the gates of hell before I let him take another person I love from me."

Yeah, pretty much. That's but a taste of the overly verbose dialogue that crowds every inch of the film Alex Cross. If there's been a dumber detective movie made in the last ten or so years, I certainly haven't heard about it or seen it. As a matter of fact, I was a bit of a pariah in the theater, openly snorting and giggling at some of the more preposterous elements of this film, much to the chagrin of the serious minded Alex Cross fans in the audience.

I realize that I am not the target audience for this, and I fully admit that I went into the film knowing that it had gotten awful reviews, so I was there for the wrong reasons, but it doesn't mean I didn't pay my money like everyone else. In order for me to fully explain how awful the film is, I'm going to get into some spoilers, but don't worry, I don't expect you to see the movie and I don't think you should, and even if you do, these won't ruin your enjoyment of the film.

First off, Jesus Christ on a cracker, this movie is stupid. There's an old adage in screenwriting that you should enter a scene as late as possible and end it as quickly as possible, but screenwriters Marc Moss & Kerry Williamson have never heard of this. Well, in fairness, it may have been a directorial decision made in editing the film, but virtually every scene of this movie has thirty seconds of establishing silence before beginning the dialogue, and then once the dialogue begins, it's almost solely expository.

They feel the need to have a scene where Tommy (Edward Burns) tells his new partner Monica (Rachel Nichols) that he's sleeping with, but has known for two months, that he's been friends with fellow detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) since they were kids. The next scene is between Tommy & Alex and consists almost exclusively of them swapping stories from their past as kids growing up. Virtually the entire movie has mind-numbing structural contradictions like this. It's positively rife with them.

Here's another one I'd like to throw at you. This trio of detectives is hunting a serial killer (I'll get into how fucking stupid this character is shortly) and the killer is able to glean their identities not from any sort of crackerjack detective work, but because they live in a world where the local newspaper publishes photos of police detectives on the front page. Yeah. This is a totally plausible occurrence in the world in which this film exists.

So, about that killer. Matthew Fox plays him, and he doesn't have a name. His character's name on imdb is listed as "Picasso" because one character in one scene calls him that, so I guess that's as good a reason as any. Matthew Fox is an actor I have no particular affinity for, even though he was on one of my favorite shows of all time, Lost. However, viewers of Lost will know of this annoying tic that he has where any time his character of Jack thought he had the upper hand, his eyes would bug out and he would begin to take huge, dramatic pauses in between words. Okay, so his character in this movie does this the entire time. He seems to think that it makes him look intense, but it makes him look like an asshole.

So this killer is only a pawn in a much larger scheme, he's a hired hand who, we're told later, came highly recommended. Yet he hangs out at his first crime scene and sketches a picture for the detectives that will surely case the scene, and within this sketch, he includes a hidden message as to who his next victim will be. What the fucking fuck? What kind of logic is that? This guy's a paid assassin, receiving orders from a person disguising his voice on the phone with him, yet he knows not only who his next victim is, but he disguises it in a MAD Magazine style fold-in drawing? These are the sort of stupid, inane, nonsensical details that should be weeded out in a first draft, or at the very least be deleted from the film before it's released into theaters.

But, I'm getting hung up on minutiae here. Let's get into the absolute stupidest thing that this film does. The killer uses a sniper rifle to try and kill Alex Cross, but instead kills his pregnant wife. This leads to a solid fifteen minutes of scenes where Alex Cross has to comfort his other children, deal with his own grief, and get a sassy talkin' to from his mother about his duties as a father. In the interest of full disclosure, I've never seen a Tyler Perry movie before, but I imagine that these schmaltzy, ham-fisted scenes are the kind that his films are typically made up of, as they have no business in a detective film like this.

Much like my similar complaint with the villain in this summer's Dark Shadows, the filmmakers felt the need to pile on offenses for this villain because they don't trust the audience enough to want to see him taken down for his crimes. The filmmakers feel as though his crimes have to be so egregious and personal that the audience can't help but ravenously root for the hero to disembowel him, and be satisfied with nothing less.

The whole endeavor is a nightmare. Director Rob Cohen (Stealth, XXX, The Fast & The Furious) is the worst possible director for a film like this. His action sequences are all shaky-cam nonsense that you can't follow to save your life, and he thinks that swelling the strings on the score is a substitute for tightening the screws of suspense. The performances are almost comedically miscalculated. Tyler Perry has a loyal following, and I'm sure there are people out there who think he's a good actor, but he's so woefully miscast here. His idea of being intense involves staring off into the distance and delivering his lines in a trance-like monotone.

The only thing worse than Ed Burns the director is Ed Burns the actor, and he's as awful as ever here. Even semi-respectable actors like John C. McGinley, Giancarlo Esposito, & Jean Reno show up, almost to add some respectability, but fall just as flat as everyone else thanks to the awful script. That brings us to Fox, who is as bad as anyone has ever been in anything. He is irredeemably awful here, mistaking pauses and intensity for actual character traits. It's a horribly misguided performance, made all the worse because of the equally bad material he was given.

Avoid Alex Cross at all costs. Even if you're a fan of the other films in the series, this one bears no resemblance to those. It's as bad a movie as I've seen all year, and will certainly live in infamy as one of the only films ever made that I could find absolutely nothing positive to say about.

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