Oh, Alex Cross. Every now and then a movie comes along that is so misconceived on every conceivable level that it becomes ludicrously entertaining in the ways that the filmmakers never intended. Apparently, during one of his meetings to discuss which seven movies he would crank out last year, Tyler Perry decided it would be time to show off his badass side. Fair enough, when you get famous for dressing up like a woman, chances are you’d want to make sure that wasn’t the only thing you’d ever be known for. So, good ol’ Mr. Perry decided to dip his toes into Morgan Freeman’s pool and play a young version of the preternaturally talented detective Alex Cross (Kiss the Girls, Along Came A Spider). What’s supposed to be an earnest attempt at a morally righteous thriller comes off as a clumsy slapstick comedy of inept filmmaking. It’s so poorly slapped together that you’d almost think the whole exercise was B-movie parody, were it not for the fact that the trash dumps out of the compactor without a hint of irony. This is an early Razzie Award favourite and a film almost worth recommending for all of the laughs to be found that no one intended.
The film is a Batman Begins for the Alex Cross character, an origin story that shows how the oh-so talented detective cut his teeth on a supervillain in Detroit before heading out to the FBI to track down those dinks full time. He’s got a partner (Ed Burns) who offers love, respect, and attitude; a wife and child who he loves; a nana with moral authority that he fears; and a job as a top dog among Detroit detectives. Yep, everything is good. Too bad about the psychopath who came to town implausibly named Picasso (Matthew Fox) for his love of leaving art work behind his brutal murder scenes. At first it seems like Picasso is targeting the rich for mass slaughter as part of the whole haves n’ have nots battle in the big D. Then it becomes clear that he’s working as a hired hand. Could it be for that suspicious French character played by the only other recognizable actor in the film? Who knows and more importantly who cares once Picasso starts coming after Cross’ directly. This is going to be a battle that’ll test all of Cross’ wits and since grenade launchers are involved, he’s going to have to dole out a little ass kicking as well (don’t worry, he owns a black undershirt and sawed-off shotgun for just such an occasion).
So…yeah…it’s a crappy serial killer movie and one that doesn’t even have the benefit of using a James Patterson novel as source material. This sucker was whipped up just for Perry, which means when the game gets personal, he’s gonna talk about God and the need to send that bastard to hell. It’s also a movie designed for the special “talents” of director Rob Cohen (The Fast And The Furious, XXX, Daylight), which means that stuff is constantly going to be blowing up real good and the deaths will be ludicrously over the top. Together that creates a magical cocktail of misplaced moralization and cartoonish ultraviolance.
To make things even better, the script of conflicting tones seems to have been whipped up over a caffeine fueled weekend and offers dialogue gems like “I didn’t get you pregnant by talking” or a German business man shouting “This building is impenetrable!” It’s some of the worst B-movie writing around with scenes that could be played with no adjustments in a parody vehicle like MacGruber. I mean, we’re talking about a movie where not only does the killer decide to attempt an assassination from a moving train with a rocket launcher, but somehow Cross figures out that it’s going to happen seconds before without any indication that could be a plan. I guess the character watched a lot of shitty action movies in the 80s and 90s and quickly figured out that he was in one.
Every single scene in the movie is about that ridiculous and as long as you aren’t sitting in a theater expecting anything less, it is a hilarious work of blockbuster cheese that’ll have you laughing until it hurts. Perry tries to take it all seriously, but he’s clearly out of his depth as an action hero. He adds a certain dignity to the Hallmark card family moments that I suppose explains his appeal, but as the guy throwing punches or explaining why the bad guy has to die, it’s like watching a third grader play hero on the playground (The posturing seems right because he’s imitating those who came before, yet nothing about it is believable). He also stumbles through action scenes with the fight choreography grace of a giant rock being shoved into frame. Everyone else in the cast is out of their depth as well, simply because they’re all dramatic actors trying to play something straight that can’t possibly be taken seriously. Fox at least tries to create a character out of Picasso and his effort puts him above the rest of the cast. It’s just a shame that the writing prevents him from doing much beyond mugging (if he had a silent villain mustache, you can guarantee he would have twisted it).
Simply put, Alex Cross is a complete disaster. But, like spotting a homeless person defecating in front of traffic, you won’t be able to tear your eyes away. This is a movie that keeps you gripped because after every scene you’ll think, “well, at least things can’t get any worse.” Well, let me assure you that they can and in that perverse way movies this bad can be just as engrossing as something that works perfectly. If you can’t wait to see what happens next as a viewer, then the filmmakers must have gotten something right, even in cases like Alex Cross when what they got right is oh so deliciously wrong.