"Alex Cross," the latest attempt to turn one of James Patterson's crime novels into a movie, should have been Tyler Perry's opportunity to establish a film franchise where he didn't have to wear a dress. But the attempt falls short because of an uneven script and sloppy pacing. If this is the best Perry can do, then he'd better stick to the pantyhose.
The film follows a group of Detroit detectives as they try to stop a masterful assassin looking to kill the top dogs in a firm trying to revitalize the city. They have to do their job while dealing with a boss who thinks more about politics than police work.
It's a familiar story that needed clever writing and crisp acting to have any chance of working. It has neither.
There's nothing original in Perry's portrayal of the Detroit cop. Instead of playing off his incredible deductive reasoning, Perry's Cross spends most of his time chasing or beating bad guys. Even the final battle between Cross and the hired assassin -- known as Picasso -- is a fistfight. This showdown deserved a far smarter conclusion.
The screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson is a series of contradictions. They have the detective played by Edwards Burns get emotionally involved with someone but (spoiler alert) when she's brutally murdered, he acts more like a guy upset about spilling his coffee.
There's also a long passionate speech delivered by Cicely Tyson about how Cross shouldn't give into his hatred so that he can face his children without shame. She might as well have been reciting a grocery list considering how little effect it has on the vengeance-minded detective.
Matthew Fox turns in the most psychotic killer performance since Heath Ledger creeped up the screen in "The Dark Knight." Fox deserves credit for moving way out of his acting comfort zone, but his escape took him just a little too far. He plays this role with over-the-top absurdity, and he comes across as being cartoonish as the story plays out against a backdrop of Detroit.
Inconsistencies in acting and an uneven script make this a movie you probably should just "Cross" off your list.
"Alex Cross," rated PG-13 for violence, language, partial nudity. Stars Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, Jean Reno. Directed by Rob Cohen. Running time: 101 minutes. Grade: C Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.