Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alex Cross

Tough to be Bad

James Patterson's fictional creation, the forensic psychologist Alex Cross, is no stranger to the world of movies, after having graced the big screen in films like Kiss the Girls, and Along Came a Spider, both of which were productions more than a decade ago, with the leading character played by Morgan Freeman. In Alex Cross, Tyler Perry takes over the mantle to play a much younger Cross at the cusp of his joining the FBI, subject to gaining the approval of his wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo) to uproot the family to Washington D.C, but now having to face an assassin (Matthew Fox) who is running around town performing his assigned hits.

Like Sherlock Holmes, this cinematic interpretation of Alex Cross bears the same uncanny powers of deduction, but that's it, with few scenes to show off that prowess, then decided it's best that Cross also becomes as brawny as he is brainy. It's certain of an attempt to build a much larger universe for the character to operate in for future installments, but alas having key supporting characters laid to waste, which is a pity. Edward Burns, playing Tommy Kane, who should be the equivalent of Cross' best friend John Sampson in the books, gets largely isolated from the trailers and promotional materials, that for a role that's quite meaty here, it just spells trouble. And true enough, the many subplots introduced in this film, all get discarded when convenient, and you have that niggling feeling they're there to pad the film to make it feature length, because Tyler Perry versus Matthew Fox as hero against villain doesn't have too much ring to it, nor have too much material to get these two temporal adversaries going.

So in the end, this is quite unlike any of James Patterson's novel, other than in name and the featuring of few key characters. This is Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson's interpretation of the character, with making things up along the way, and in essence, turning Alex Cross into a generic hero who's lacking in personality and distinction to stand out from the crowded cop-action-thriller genres. And it'll be interesting to know if director Rob Cohen have had his wings clipped somewhat through the lack of a reasonably sized budget to deal with the action sequences he had in mind, because they were at best, rudimentary, with heavy use of poorly rendered CG to try and convince audiences that things really got blown up.

Drama isn't Cohen's forte, but Alex Cross is steeped in it, making the film seemed quite half-assed especially in pacing, with dramatic scenes inserted quite haphazardly that it makes the pace erratic. For instance, Cross and Kane get called into an investigation when a body turns up, and it took them quite a while in finally getting to the scene of the crime, which along the way we're treated to the two men's awkward banter about their relationships with their other half, and Cross' warning for Kane that business and pleasure don't mix well. By now you'll see the expected plot development coming, with the story trying to make audiences relate to and identify with these two working adults with their respective relationship woes. Their private issues become mixed up in their pursuit, and this provides for a more vested interest in closing the case with vendetta on their minds, which I thought was supposed to be a good move, should the scenes that follow contain a lot more emotional impact. What Tyler Perry and Edward Burns managed to do, is to only read their lines one at a time, totally blowing any acting awards out of the water.

Perhaps it was left to Matthew Fox to save the day. After all, his career in Tinseltown didn't really take off, and his radical role here may turn a lot more heads. As the tattooed, sociopath hitman with a penchant for pain, both inflicted onto his victims and onto himself, for a while he brings about a somewhat refreshing take with his chiseled body used as a weapon to take down opponents, then turned bland rather quickly. But his character is more of an enigma, appearing at the beginning to show off what three million dollars can buy, with hits being exercised with precision, accuracy and the sick need to tear his victims apart. Like Cross, once the novelty wore off, he degenerated into yet another routine, a villain whose status got elevated just because he's the character who inflicted the most pain on Alex Cross, although their tough-talking with each other lacked the intensity one would expect since their adversity has become personal.

Alex Cross had promise and potential, after all there was two films in the past. However if this was intended to kickstart yet another franchise, I suppose the house has got to be in order, and to get the right director to tell the kind of story that needs to be told from any of James Patterson's source material.

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