A tougher, grittier 'Alex Cross'

Tyler Perry as Det. Alex Cross. (SUPPLIED)

Tyler Perry as Det. Alex Cross. (SUPPLIED)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 PM ET

You remember those movies from the turn-of-the-century where Morgan Freeman played Alex Cross, the police psychologist character from the smartly-written James Patterson detective series?

Kiss The Girls was one. Along Came A Spider was another.

Well, if you liked them, the good news is there's another Alex Cross movie coming.

The catch? Well, Freeman's too old for the role now. So they've cast, um, Tyler Perry. Yep, the big guy in the dress in those Madea movies.

And the movie Alex Cross isn't actually from any of Patterson's books. Patterson does get money from the use of the name Alex Cross though. And he did write an early version of the script that they didn't use.

Oh, and the director is Rob Cohen, of The Fast and the Furious and xXx fame. Which means sleuthing and intelligent plotting takes a backseat to car chases and explosions.

Other than that, what's not to like?

It's hard to believe Hollywood's perception of audience tastes have changed that much in a decade. But Alex Cross represents a palpable dumbing-down of Patterson's literary franchise. There is little in this catch-a-serial-killer story that suggests a brilliant detective at work. Despite going through motions that suggest a somewhat larger-budgeted episode of TV's Criminal Minds (right down to the wonky computer geekgirl who can track a perp's location through his OnStar account), this crime story is all about who has the bigger gun and lands the last punch.

Superficially, you can see why Hollywood execs and their accountants might think Alex Cross is a good idea. Perry is a big guy, so why not an action star? He's already got a large African-American audience, so broadening his appeal is win-win.

But even the more "serious" films he's made haven't demanded much from him, acting-wise. In a movie where his character suffers real, soul-searing tragedy, sufficient to turn him into an angry vigilante ... well, let's just say he's no Morgan Freeman.

And as an action star? He may just be able to throw a movie punch as well as Morgan Freeman.

There is one bit of casting that pushes Alex Cross into watchable territory, and that's Matthew Fox in full-out-insane mode as the serial killer nicknamed Picasso. It's his first role since they cancelled Lost, and he seems to want to kill that series' Dr. Jack with extreme prejudice. He's starved himself into pure sinew and is in a crazy place that involves elaborate torture schemes.

Of Perry's supporting cast (including Ed Burns as Cross's by-the-numbers supportive partner), Fox is the only one who doesn't seem to know he's in a mediocre movie.

In fact, I'll go a step further and say if this weren't a mediocre movie, Fox might be up for awards consideration. He is that freakin' scary.

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca

This film is rated 14A


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