Rob Cohen is a hit and miss director. Hits that include The Fast and the Furious and xXx, and misses such as Stealth and The Skulls. His latest film, Alex Cross, falls somewhere in between.
Based on a character created by author James Patterson, “Cross” has been on the big screen before. In Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, he was portrayed by Morgan Freeman. This time, Tyler Perry takes on the title role.
The plot for Alex Cross is lifted from the 12th novel featuring Patterson’s favorite detective. In it he’s a homicide detective in Detroit (a change from the books, which are generally set in Washington, D.C.). Cross and his partner “Tommy Kane” (Edward Burns), along with another detective, “Monica Ashe” (Rachel Nichols) open the film chasing down and catching a criminal on the run. Then Alex goes home to his wife while Tommy and Monica go home with each other, violating rules.
Cross and Kane are then summoned to a crime scene that night and it’s a doozy. A woman has been tortured and killed, along with her three bodyguards. The killer left behind a charcoal drawing that contains a clue to his next target and soon Cross and team are racing to protect this target from the killer, known only as “The Butcher of Sligo” (Matthew Fox). They manage to stop him from getting to his target, but they see him and he sees them.
Cross, who is a psychologist and criminal profiler as well as a superior detective, is asked if he thinks the killer will come after his team and he says that’s not part of his profile… he turns out to be wrong.
The struggle between Cross and The Butcher becomes personal and the last half of the film is a race to prevent another murder. Cross also sets out for revenge and redemption, angry at himself for not recognizing that he and others he cares about were in jeopardy from this killer.
I haven’t read this specific Patterson novel, but his works are usually excellent and he spins a great mystery yarn. Alex Cross is a bit more action that one might anticipate from one of his mystery stories involving the titular character, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Action sequences are one of director Cohen’s strengths. Even in the horrible disaster that was Stealth, the action was very well done. And that’s the case here.
Perry is not great as the brooding, reflective detective. An actor who might have been more into the psyche and less the physicality of the character would have been better. Idris Elba was one of those mentioned as a possibility for this role and he might have been a better choice. However, to Perry’s credit, he and Edward Burns have the kind of on-screen chemistry one would expect of life-long friends and cops who are long-time partners.
Side stories about a teen girl who is taking the rap for a murder she didn’t commit provide needed plot points, but the film might have been better served by delving more into what makes the title character so interesting in the novels. This isn’t a great film, but it’s definitely better than most are describing it and worthy of at least a bargain matinee.