Based on the novel Cross by thriller author James Patterson, “Alex Cross” is the third film to be adapted from one of his novels. The first two, 1997’s “Kiss the Girls,” and 2001’s “Along Came a Spider” featured Morgan Freeman as the ridiculously observant psychologist/detective Alex Cross. The former was a critical and box-office success, not a smash-hit by any means, but certainly enough to warrant a follow-up. The latter performed mediocrely with critics and at the box-office. Not a complete bomb, but you can understand why it took more than a decade for this “reboot” of sorts to come along for the “Alex Cross” franchise, and I use the term franchise loosely because there is very little room for “Cross” to grow.
Bearing the Cross for this outing is actor/director/produer Tyler Perry, who has seen immense success with the “Madea” comedy franchise. This is certainly a departure for Perry and you could argue that it’s an attempt at avoiding being typecast in Madea type roles, but Perry is in full control of his career so he can play Madea for as long as he chooses to. While Perry is able to pull off the role of bad-ass cop well enough to make you forget about Madea, his delivery comes off as stiff and void of emotion.
The basis of the Cross character is that he’s a beat detective with a psychology degree, unmatched attention to detail and a keen sense of human behaviour. Cross sees things in the ordinary that the rest of us don’t, and like any good cop, he’s always right. This is where the disconnect between the audience and Cross begins. He’s so smart and he’s so good, that we can’t even understand it. He’ll know, for example, that a mass killing in an up-scale neighbourhood was the work of a lone killer, and he’s right, but how? There’s no logic or explanation provided for how Cross sees things the way he does that an audience can look back at in hindsight and say “oh yeah!” On top of that, Cross comes across as maybe a little too vindictive and hell-bent on revenge, even considering the circumstances; it’s to the point of being a turn off. Besides with Morgan Freeman making the transition from chasing bad guys to sitting in a studio doing voice-overs for a living, hasn’t he taught us that the best revenge is living well?
Cross’ antagonist and possibly the most relatable major character in the film is serial killer Picasso played by Matthew Fox. A lot of time and attention is paid to this character and getting him over as a criminal mastermind. Much more accessible than Cross, Picasso comes off as an anti-hero in this film, but having a Joker like character in “Alex Cross” isn’t desirable. In what is probably a tactical error, an early scene in the film sees Picasso enter himself into an underground cage fighting match against a much bigger, killer of an opponent. By placing Picasso in a situation as an underdog so early in the film and having already established Cross as never wrong and seemingly impossible to outsmart, it sets up Picasso as a sympathetic character who you find yourself rooting for, even though you know you shouldn’t be.
Cross, happily married with a baby on the way is readying himself for a cushy job with the FBI. Picasso, a serial killer with a penchant for torturing women, knows Cross is on his tail and turns Cross’ life upside down and sends him looking for revenge. What follows is a back and forth game of cat and mouse with some mental warfare that climaxes in a shaky-cam factory fight scene towards the end of the movie.
Led by seasoned action director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx”), “Alex Cross” as an action flick is certainly passable for those looking for some blood, explosions, and fighting. The direction and pacing of the film is well done but starts to fall apart with the climactic fight at the end of the movie. The shaky, handheld style of shooting for this scene feels very out of place in a film that was shot and edited very traditionally up to that point. The shaky-cam could be an attempt at masking either poor fight choreography or poor fight performance by the actors. Other than that, the movie is well presented, there aren’t any major plot holes or head scratching moments, it will satisfy action fans but someone looking for something more along the lines of a police procedural may find the lack of depth to Cross’ character underwhelming.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the “Alex Cross” Blu-ray looks very sharp. Fast moving fight and chase scenes don’t blur and dark scenes are easily viewable and don’t carry a lot of grain in the image. The one really big explosion in the movie looks nice and bright but the quality of the image actually exposes the special effects of it all and comes off slightly fake looking.
The main audio option for the Blu-ray is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. This audio option is very good with the pops of gunfire being very succinct and impactful. The only negative that I can raise about the audio of the movie is that at times the music is too high in the mix and drowns out certain sound effects. The music has a good deal of thumping bass so some users may prefer to choose the Dolby Digital 2.0 Optimized for Late-Night Listening option if they don’t want let the neighbours know what they’re watching.
The Blu-ray edition of “Alex Cross” comes equipped with both a digital copy via iTunes and an Ultraviolet copy of the film that you can access on any device through the cloud with uvvu.com. The disc also includes an audio commentary with director Rob Cohen, some deleted scenes and a featurette detailing the adaptation and filming of “Alex Cross” from book to screen. For a film like this, this is an acceptable amount of special features, which along with the portability options packaged with the Blu-ray, make it a good buy for fans of Perry or the film.
You can see how Hollywood would think the public is ready for a reboot of Patterson’s books with procedural crime shows like “CSI” and “The Mentalist” having become very popular since “Along Came a Spider” was released 12 years ago. The idea of a smart person out thinking a ruthless criminal has become a popular premise in television so it seems logical it would translate to the big screen. However, what we end up with is a film that feels like either a big budget TV pilot or a low budget action flick. Unfortunately for us with “Alex Cross,” it is not free and we can’t change the channel. And for that reason, you can’t help but feel a little double-crossed.