NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 25, 2012

'Alex Cross' feels like a painful trip to the dentist

By Greg Vellante Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News

---- — I’ve lost count of the number of times myself or my brother have given our father a copy of a James Patterson novel based on the adventures of the character Alex Cross (of which there are plenty). I asked my dad what he thought of these books the other day and he replied that he liked them — that is until they all became “one and the same.”

I wonder what this makes the film version of “Alex Cross,” which despite being the first film in a blatant franchise starter, is already just like everything we’ve seen before when it comes to crummy action films. Here is a film that could easily be stitched together with scenes from other movies, none of them very good, and still end up the same. This is, by far, the worst action movie of the year.

Director Rob Cohen, who kicked off the “Fast and the Furious” franchise in high-octane fashion and hasn’t done much to impress since, crafts “Alex Cross” into one of the most relentlessly insipid films of 2012.

Lazy, tedious, contrived — the movie feels more like a painful unpleasant trip to the dentist than a visit to the cinema. In fact, tools scraping against my teeth would have made the better alternative. At least when I finished, I’d be left with a shiny new grin. When “Alex Cross” cut to credits, I probably looked to be irreversibly depressed.

The movie follows astute Detroit detective Alex Cross, before his years as a member of the FBI (a character captured in the films “Along Came a Spider” and “Kiss the Girls” by Morgan Freeman). He’s highly intelligent but you wouldn’t be able to really tell that from the action on screen, but rather the characters constantly commenting on such throughout the duration. “Oh, Alex. Why are you so clever?”

The titular character is played by Tyler Perry, who is one behemoth of a producer and very good at what he does as long as it doesn’t involve acting. I haven’t seen any of the ‘Madea’ films, where Perry dons drag as an elderly black woman, but I’d imagine anything would be better than the stale, emotionless performance given by Perry in “Alex Cross.”

There’s a scene where he reacts to good news, and he may as well have been reading from the phone book. In a scene where he’s supposed to cry, you can sense the on-screen presence of interns adding fake tears to his eyes in between takes. But luckily for Perry, he isn’t the worst actor on screen — not by a long shot.

“Alex Cross” also proves that the bigger the supporting role played by bore-for-hire Edward Burns is, the worse the movie. I don’t understand how this guy keeps getting work.

And Matthew Fox, as the movie’s villain — a bug-eyed assassin named “The Butcher,” who looks like an emaciated crack head who mixed his junk with some bad steroids — offers up some of the worst acting I have seen this year. You can see the chewed scenery caught between his teeth the first second he appears on screen.

Like a low-budget TV police procedural mixed with the lamest action-movie formula, “Alex Cross” is a failed series opener that bores, tortures, and evolves into one of the most rushed and pathetic action climaxes I have seen this year (rivaled only by the complete lack of one in “The Bourne Legacy”).

There was apparently an earthquake during my viewing of the film but I never noticed. Shame. It would have been nice to feel something, anything, during “Alex Cross” — even if it was a roof coming down on my head.