By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 18, 2012 at 12:41PM
I'm opting out of writing a review of this movie; I have little positive to say about it (well, maybe except for Giancarlo Esposito's few minutes on screen); so instead of doing the expected and beating it up in a critique (trust me, it's too easy), I decided to give you a balanced look at what other reviews are saying about the film.
The final decision is yours, of course.
Without further ado, here's the breakdown. The film is currently registering a low, low 14% rating via Rotten Tomatoes, with 22 reviews in so far. It's down from last night's 22%.
I'll start with the negative (every review is from Rotten Tomatoes by the way), followed by the positive, and finish up with some quick thoughts from me.
First, from Roger Ebert, who's actually usually one of the kinder critics:
"Alex Cross" is a disjointed thriller with two many characters rattling around, including Cross' partner (Edward Burns), his inexplicably domineering and bossy mother (Cecily Tyson) and his sweet wife (Carmen Ejogo), who doesn't want him to take the FBI job in Washington and make their kids leave school. There is also John C. McGinley as the mean and nasty police chief, who at one point tells Cross and his partner, "You're dismissed." Say what? Is this a version of the cop movie cliche where they're made to turn in their guns and badges, or simply an imprecise word choice? This is the first film Tyler Perry has appeared in that isn't his own personal work. He is best known, of course, as Madea, the 6-foot-5 matriarch Perry plays as a cross-dressing signature role. "Alex Cross" would perhaps have been much improved with Medea in the title role.
Somebody got it wrong. A lot of people got it wrong. And the result is one of the most ridiculous, laughable and dim-bulbed serial killer thrillers in recent memory or ever. Seriously, people, this movie is to "Silence of the Lambs" as "I Am Number Four" is to "E.T." The movie's complete lack of scares and suspense derive from many factors, including a lot of shilly-shallying no doubt designed to preserve a PG-13 MPAA rating. But that's not the only thing. Directed by Rob Cohen, the movie's whole atmosphere is so third-hand and chintzy that the standard comparisons that come to mind (to a Lifetime movie, say) simply won't do. This is atrocious filmmaking of a particular sort, the kind that actually needs tens of millions of dollars to exist. It'd be kind of funny if one could keep from thinking of the actual good movies that this money could have funded. Like a remake of "The Room," maybe.
This Cross is cocky, a bit trigger-happy and prone to revenge -- and this Cross is played by Tyler Perry. He's also less interesting. When you fill in a character's back story, you strip away some of his mystique. When you focus on the flippant in a film about a frantic hunt for a psychopathic assassin, you diminish the urgency of the hunt and remove the gravitas of the character. And when you make Tyler Perry run and point a gun, you remember why nobody's ever used him as an action figure before. "Alex Cross" is not an awful movie, but it isn't a very compelling one. Cohen, the screenwriters and Perry share the blame for that. If the Alex Cross movies "Kiss the Girls" (1997) and "Along Came a Spider" (2001) had been this weak, there'd have been no reason to revisit the sad, serious character Freeman brought to life so vividly.
And now here are the good reviews, of which there are only 3 currently, out of 22 thus far:
At its core, Alex Cross is a vehicle for Perry to stretch his talents and show us his cerebral and athletic side, which he's so far kept out of his cinematic oeuvre. He takes a much bolder tack with the role than even Freeman attempted, and finds the essence of the character that has proven so popular in Patterson's lucrative beach reads. Cohen knows his way around this kind of material and turns the familiar story into a gripping action thriller that keeps you on edge throughout. Fox's unexpected casting as the whiplash slender and evil Picasso excels as a balls-out chilling portrayal of a villain with no moral compass and seemingly no blood running through his veins. It may be a one-dimensional style portrayal, but what a dimension. Burns is likable and empathetic as Cross' right hand partner and Nichols is wildly appealing in her few scenes. A solid supporting cast including the great Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Tyson as Perry's wise but concerned mother is well chosen. But this is Perry's show all the way and he proves that as a hired actor he can still deliver something audiences aren't expecting from Hollywood's most prolific multi-hyphenate.
The Good: Rob Cohen infuses the movie with taut action and raw emotion, and the performances by Tyler Perry and Matthew Fox are as astonishing as they are riveting. The Bad: It doesn't break any new ground in the realm of crime thriller or vigilante movies. The Verdict Thanks to a game cast, taut action scenes and a surprising dose of raw emotion, Alex Cross finally gets the movie that he deserves.
Helmed by action director Rob Cohen (The Fast And The Furious, XXX), Alex Cross goes for the collective audience jugular with extreme, nearly apocalyptic mayhem and gory violence. And as masterminded by a deliriously depraved Fox ferociously in character, who at times seems somewhat too over the edge nutty to actually pull off such intricately concocted dastardly deeds. But which is always nicely counterbalanced with a subdued yet cool, calm and collected determined demeanor on the part of Perry, no matter what the imminent danger. And impressively demonstrating a surprising broad range of acting talents, even though Perry might have used more than a little help with her adept scoundrel busting skills, from that Madea.
So there ya have it, 3 in favor, 3 against. Like I said, there are far more negative reviews than positive, and I expect that to remain the case even as more reviews pour in.
As the title of this post says, the film is everything you thought it would be; of course what exactly that is, is entirely subjective, and up to each person. Some will like it, others won't. C'est la vie.
I'll tip my hat to Mr Perry for the attempt; it's unlike anything he's ever done before, and, as I've said on this site many times, I applaud risk-taking. Even if you don't succeed in the end, at least you tried. And I'm sure he's learned something from this experience that we can only hope will inform his abilities and decisions going forward.
And I'll also say that it's not entirely his fault. The source material itself is terribly weak. If this were made 30 years ago, it might have been considered ground-breaking. But we've seen the serial killer, man-hunt, revenge movie done so many times, and done a hell of a lot better.
If you're going to make a movie in that genre in 2012, it had better be something transgressive, that pushes the boundaries of that box, or even blows up the box.
This is entry-level stuff. Maybe for Tyler Perry it's a step up, or step in, but for many of us, it's in retrograde; deep in retrograde.
But maybe it'll do just fine with his base, and that's the point, and enough for it to turn a profit; afterall, a sequel has been announced already, even though the first one isn't out yet.
I'm really curious to see how it does this weekend, at the box office.
So a pat on the back for the effort, but, unfortunately, it just didn't work... for me anyway.