“Inflicting pain,” says psychotic killer “Picasso” (Matthew Fox), “is a crucial part of my calling.” He’s on the phone with Detroit Police Department homicide detective/psychologist Alex Cross (Tyler Perry). Cross says, “So we’re just two professionals having a conversation.” There’s more to it than that, as we learn in this revenge drama/thriller. We learn mostly from Cross whose profiling powers and deductive insights are positively “Sherlockian.” Over coffee with his wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo), he describes her day in detail from evidence none of us can see, and after a once-over at the crime scene, he profiles the killer: “He’s an assassin — military, sociopathic, narcissistic. He wants someone to pay, to suffer. He’s got a clear purpose, a narrow focus.” Later, before the film’s explosive climax, Cross tells us where the killer is and what he’s up to.
Tyler Perry is action-hero Dr. Alex Cross, a break-out role from his Medea franchise. Here he’s soft-spoken, calm and gentlemanly (mostly), nicely underplaying the role, although, as written, Alex Cross is a paragon of virtues, as good at rehabilitating criminals as he is with children, thoughtful and loving to his wife, and a regular guy with DPD detective partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns). He makes only one mistake. As psychotic assassin “Picasso,” aka “The Butcher of Sligo,” Matthew Fox is intense, ingenious and spectacularly fit, brutal at arena fighting, familiar with kinky sex, drugs and how to foil complex security systems. He’s also very good with long-range rifles. He is a piece of work.
Others in the cast include Carmen Ejogo as Maria, patient wife who tells Alex, “We’re going to work through this together.” Edward Burns is reliable Tommy Kane, Cross’s detective partner. Jean Reno plays uncooperative French billionaire Leon Mercier, and Cicely Tyson is Alex’s no-nonsense mom, Nana Mama. Giancarlo Esposito is Detroit gangster Daramus Holiday.
“Alex Cross” is a revenge thriller, smart psychologist versus sadistic assassin. Actors and director Rob Cohen do their best, but Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson’s script (only Alex Cross comes from James Patterson) doesn’t give them much to work with. We know why Cross wants revenge, but what motivates the killer? What’s his psychosis? Who is he? Nor does the film generate many thrills or much suspense. In movies, suspense depends on the audience knowing something the characters don’t — there’s a time bomb under the table. Most often, Cross tells us what the killer will do next. No suspense.
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, sex, drugs, language, and nudity, “Alex Cross” runs 101 minutes. Not for kids. Watch Morgan Freeman’s Alex Cross in “Kiss the Girls” (1997) or “Along Came a Spider” (2001).
Profiler “Alex Cross”
Tracks a vicious killer,
Not much of a thriller.