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(2012) (Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox) (PG-13)

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Dramatic Thriller: A detective and his associates try to find and stop a deranged assassin before he kills a corporate executive, unaware that doing so will also put them in the killer's crosshairs.
Alex Cross (TYLER PERRY) is a detective with the Detroit Police Department who works alongside his childhood friend Tommy Kane (EDWARD BURNS) and Monica Ashe (RACHEL NICHOLS) trying to solve the city's grisliest crimes. Married to Maria (CARMEN EJOGO) with two kids and another one on the way, he's a happy family man but must get to work when a sadistic assassin known as Picasso (MATTHEW FOX) strikes.

Technically proficient and innovative at his killings that also show him to be a deranged and sadistic psychopath, Picasso has just killed a wealthy woman and her bodyguards. And discovered evidence points to the fact that he's headed up a corporate chain, with his final target likely being wealthy businessman Giles Mercier (JEAN RENO).

Racing against time, Alex and his team try to figure out who Picasso is and how to stop him, all of which puts them at risk once the killer realizes they're on his trail.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The last time we saw Dr. Alex Cross at the movies -- he being the protagonist of many a James Patterson novel -- it was 2001 and the African-American detective and psychologist appeared as a 64-year-old distinguished man with a voice made for documentaries and other voice-over work. If you don't recall that or recognize the reference, Cross was played by Morgan Freeman then in "Along Came a Spider" as well as its predecessor, 1997's "Kiss the Girls."

Considering that Freeman might now be a bit long in the tooth to play the part, he's been replaced by another performer in the simply titled "Alex Cross," based on Patterson's 12th entry in the series, "Cross." While there are a number of notable and talented African-American actors who could have taken on the role (word is that Idris Elba was initially going to play the part), director Rob Cohen has opted for none other than Tyler Perry.

Yes, that Tyler Perry who made a name for himself -- not to mention an entertainment empire and millions upon millions of dollars -- doing the cross-dressing bit in all of those awful "Madea" movies. While that might not sit well with fans of the original Alex Cross films, we must remember that this isn't the first character to get such a makeover.

After all, Jack Ryan aged quite a bit from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford and then back again with Ben Affleck, while James Bond has gone through an even greater number of changes. And just because someone has done the drag bit on-screen, that doesn't automatically disqualify them from more serious work down the line (after all, think of Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Tony Curtis & Jack Lemmon to name just a few cinematic predecessors).

With that in mind, I was ready -- however hesitantly and cautiously -- to give Perry the benefit of the doubt. After all, he has appeared playing it straight in a number of dramas (albeit ones that have been mostly mediocre at best) and thus could surprise everyone. After sitting through a bit more than one hundred minutes of watching him playing the character, however, about the only Cross reaction most viewers will likely have is that they'll be miffed that they wasted their time and/or money on this so-called detective thriller.

Directed by Rob Cohen who works from a script by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, it feels like an entry of that genre from back in the 1980s or '90s, and a poorly executed one at that. Beyond huge continuity issues such as Perry and Edward Burns' cop characters heading off for a crime scene in the middle of the night but then arriving hours after dawn in full daylight (who knew Detroit was so vast), it starts with a lame chase scene and never improves from there.

Scenes don't flow well from one to the next, some of the dialogue is outright laughable, the action choreography is botched, and as the lead, Perry simply doesn't have the thespian chops to carry off the required emotional gravitas or the action scenes (many of which were apparently shot while the camera operator was having some sort of seizure). While Matthew Fox is okay as the deranged (and seriously malnourished) villain, his is a rote, stock antagonist commonly found in the aforementioned genre pics from decades ago.

Thus, he's deranged and bad (and we're constantly reminded of that to the point that many a viewer will have to suppress an outcry of "We get it already!") but nothing beyond that. As a result, the supposed cat and mouse thriller moments between him and the hero (whether sparring on the phone or the old walk slowly and cautiously with weapon in hand scenes) don't raise any goose bumps or heart rates, although eyebrows will likely rise on more than one occasion due to the ineptitude of it all.

Had Freeman returned for the role, at least that would have provided some emotional depth when the moments call for it (something Perry doesn't have a prayer of reaching), but even that terrific actor and that incredible voice couldn't have overcome the prolific script and direction issues. And for that reason, you should definitely cross this "Alex Cross" off your must-see list. It rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed October 16, 2012 / Posted October 19, 2012

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