Monday, October 29, 2012

Alex Cross (2012) - Movie Review

I have to confess some ignorance up front.  Even though I saw both Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, I didn't realize that Morgan Freeman was playing Alex Cross in both movies.  You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Alex Cross is a reboot of the series that's based on a popular book series (20 frigging books!).  The current film is loosely based off the novel "Cross", the 12th in the series.

What I did know was that a lot of people were in a bit of an uproar when it was announced that Tyler Perry would be playing Alex Cross.  Even though this is a reboot, how do you replace someone of the caliber of Morgan Freeman with Tyler Perry?  Plus, I think it stings the fans even more when you hear that Idris Elba was originally attached to the role.  He would have been perfect.  Go watch Luther on Netflix/DVD if you haven't yet, by the way.  In all fairness to the man, Perry is only like the tenth worse thing about the film.  I'm not sure Elba, or anyone else, would have been able to save it.

Anyway, for those unfamiliar, Alex Cross (Perry) is a detective and psychologist.  Think of him as like a Sherlock Holmes type that can pick up on minutia instantly and profile the suspect.  He lives in Detroit with his family, and is considering a move to D.C. to take a job as an FBI profiler.  He's also learned that he's expecting his third child.  It sets up like many other detective movies.  At least he's not gearing up for retirement and announcing that he's getting too old for this shit.

Juxtaposed with this is an assassin that goes by "Picasso" (Matthew Fox).  Picasso is a bit of an enigma, brutally beating a man in an MMA fight at the beginning of the film, leaving charcoal sketches at the scene of his crimes, but then he's the kind of guy that takes pleasure in the torture and killing of his victims.  After killing a businesswoman, Cross and his team are brought in to investigate. They figure out who Picasso's next target is going to be, and after a close call, Picasso decides to makes things personal.

This is where the movie could have become really tense, but it instead it seems to take on a somber note and fizzles out. Picasso does something that should motivate both Cross and his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), and while Cross initially seems to be going down that revenge path, Kane is almost completely forgotten in the mix.  Neither seem all that angry and are just kind of going through the motions.  There's very little in Alex Cross that gets you invested emotionally.

This is one of the main things that bugged me about Alex Cross.  It's simply not a well written story.  Nobody's developed all that well, and there's some really clunky exposition and dialog throughout.  It's always bugged me when a film goes out of it's way to explain relationships between characters, when it should be implied.  Here, you have relationships defined multiple times by the dialog.  This is all a shame, because when I read the synoposis of "Cross", even that reads more interesting than anything that happens in the movie.  Maybe the screenwriters should have stuck closer to the novel.

Picasso's character was all over the place: over-the-top psychotic in some scenes, but in others acting like a cheap Hannibal Lecter knock-off.  You have a paid assassin that seems more interested in screwing around with Cross, rather than the work he's contracted for.  It was really inconsistent.  I want to blame the performance of Matthew Fox, but I can't.  Fox has been fine in many other films and TV, so I can only blame his direction and the script.  I feel bad for him too, because it looks like he got in ridiculous shape for the role and tried his hardest.  I liked seeing him playing a bad guy; I just wish it was in a better film.

I feel that way about the whole cast really.  While I do think Tyler Perry was miscast, I didn't think he did that bad of a job, and it's one of the few times he came across as likable to me.  Edward Burns seemed to hit the right notes, even though this isn't anything new for him, but his character was underwritten.  Same with Rachel Nichols, who just can't seem to catch a break landing a larger role in a good film.  Giancarlo Esposito shows up for a scene and shines, which just made me wonder why he wasn't considered for Alex Cross, or why they didn't make him the villian instead.  John C. McGinley is wasted here as well as the Police Captain.  Why hasn't McGinley gotten better roles after being awesome on Scrubs for so many years?  Cicely Tyson was probably the strongest performance as Cross' mother, but again, she isn't given much screen time or much to do.  Jean Reno also has a small role, but the conclusion of his story, and the movie, is really ham-fisted.

I haven't been the biggest fan of Rob Cohen's other films (xXx, The Fast and the Furious, Steath), but as far as action goes, he's a capabale director.  Alex Cross desperately needed something to bring some excitement into the film, but it's just devoid of life.  It's bizarre that even the few action scenes aren't shot well.  You'd think this would be the strength.  When we get to the ultimate showdown, it's set up by a totally convenient collision that forces the confrontation, and then we have one of the worst shaky-cam fight scenes in cinema to date.  Shaky-cam scenes are usually a cover for bad fight choreography or actors that can't fight, but how do you have a scene like this in the film, when you open it showing us that Picasso is an MMA badass?  Now he gets beaten up by older man not known for his physicality?  Just once I'd like to see a fight in a movie go down realistically.

Alex Cross isn't a good way to reboot a franchise.  It's totally lazy, uninspired and lacks anything to make you care about the characters or invested in what's going on.  There's nothing here that's new, and even TV shows pack more punch and originality.  It's not insultingly bad, but there's nothing about it to recommend.  Remember how I said to watch Idris Elba in Luthor?  That's my recommendation.  Don't watch Alex Cross, watch Luther instead.

1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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