Starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox. Written by Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson from a novel by James Patterson. Directed by Rob Cohen. 14A. 101 min. Opens Oct. 19.
Understandably eager to establish a career in movies that he didn’t direct himself and/or didn’t require him to put on a dress, Tyler Perry makes his boldest move yet by assuming a role previously occupied by Morgan Freeman in two earlier adaptations of James Patterson’s bestselling thrillers starring Alex Cross, a detective, psychologist and intrepid tracker of serial killers. Yet Perry’s shortcomings as a leading man are made all too clear in a sluggish film that variously evokes a botched pilot for a CSI spinoff
and a community theatre rendition of Manhunter.
Then again, connoisseurs of trash will find many reasons to savour Alex Cross, the first being Perry’s painfully wooden turn as the title character, portrayed here in an early stage of his career as both a devoted family man and a dogged pursuer of Detroit’s most devious criminals. Unfortunately for Cross and partner Tommy (Edward Burns), an investigation into a lurid multiple homicide has deadly repercussions in the detectives’ personal lives.
Despite the low, growling voice he uses in all of the movie’s extra-intense moments, Perry fails to convey even the tiniest speck of the gravitas that Freeman brought to 1997’s Kiss the Girls and 2001’s Along Came a Spider, two equally ludicrous but far more convincing Cross mysteries. But to be fair, Perry’s responsible for only one platter in an exceptionally generous buffet of bad performances. Especially awe-inspiring is the scenery-chewing of Matthew Fox. Buff and bug-eyed as the psychopathic assassin who brings a world of pain down on our hero, the former Lost star gets through all but his last scene without blinking, a feat that should win him at least some sort of technical Oscar.