Physically speaking, Tyler Perry doesn’t have the look of a traditional action hero. He’s tall and lumbering, and hardly the person you’d expect to be chasing bad guys through warehouses and dark alleys.
That isn’t the main problem with Alex Cross, however, a side project that Perry apparently squeezed in during his prolific filmmaking career.
He takes over the title role in this adaptation of a novel by James Patterson from Morgan Freeman, of all people, who previously played Cross in the thrillers Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001).
In the film, Cross is working as a homicide detective in Detroit who meets an unlikely adversary in Picasso (Matthew Fox), a cunning serial killer who targets Cross out of revenge for an earlier encounter. While Cross begins investigating the identity and motive of the killer, the case tests his personal and professional boundaries when his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and longtime partner (Edward Burns) each become targets as well.
Give Perry credit for his work ethic. He typically cranks out about two of his own movies each year that have developed plenty of box-office clout (whether or not it’s deserved is a different matter). Now he steps in front of the camera in an attempt to launch a mainstream action franchise. Perry knows his brand is hot right now, and in a Hollywood world where fame can be fleeting, he’s trying to take advantage by making himself as ubiquitous as possible.
While Perry seems a strange casting choice — at least he’s not cross-dressing as an old grandmother — the film stumbles more because of its script by Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss (Along Came a Spider), which settles for cat-and-mouse conventions and favors silly plot twists over narrative coherence, leading up to the inevitable final showdown.
A buffed-up Fox chews the scenery and changes paces effectively after TV’s “Lost,” but his character here is a one-dimensional villain with equal parts brains and brawn whose motivations nevertheless remain cloudy.
Veteran action director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) stages some slick shootouts and chase sequences, but the style isn’t matched by the substance in a film that strains unsuccessfully to be taken seriously.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.