Anyone who’s ever read James Patterson’s “Alex Cross” novels knows that the Psychologist/Detective is far from the AARP card-carrying veteran made famous by Morgan Freeman. He’s actually a single father living with two kids (with a third on the way, plus a possible promotion to the FBI) and his grandma, Nana Mama. So “Alex Cross” is a reboot of sorts, one with the wild card of having Tyler “Madea” Perry in the lead role. It’s an interesting choice, one that pays off as the movie’s most promising feature, and he doesn’t even have to play the dual role of Nana either. That job goes to Cicely Tyson.
Here the film is loosely adapted from the twelfth Alex Cross novel as he uses his psych skills to track down and stop a bald-headed, psychopathic hitman going by the name Picasso (Mathew Fox, of “Lost”) hunting down employees of an energy company headed up by French businessman Giles Mercier (Jean Reno). Soon Cross’ partners (Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols) and family are put in the crossfire of a lethal individual who will not stop unless someone puts him down.
The plot is a disposable reason for characters to shout and race from one place to the next in the hopes of getting there before another disturbing, bloody murder takes place. To his credit director Rob Cohen keeps all this moving at a good clip but both he and writers Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson occasionally come up with scenes and dialogue so overwrought (you can actually see the grimness rain over the screen as Cross analyses Picasso and ties it up with him having mommy issues) that they create unintentionally gut-busting moments. The camerawork is also very shaky, especially in the final fight sequence, and the ending predictable.
But through its many problems Perry and his supporting cast really rise above the sillier moments. Perry provides for a charming and strong physical presence but also shows he can really be touching as well. He shares a nice chemistry with Burns, and Tyson is always strong even in crappiest of crap, which this is not. And probably the second biggest surprise is Mathew Fox, shedding some weight and beefing himself up, he slow-talks his way into a devilishly insane psycho role that he chews on with delight. “Alex Cross” is sometimes hard to take seriously, but shows that if they do want to make a franchise out of this, having Perry star in it is a decent start.