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Alex Cross: Dumb, Dull and Sequel Ready   Leave a comment

“Token, stop giving Tyler Perry money or he won’t go away.” – Eric Cartman
“I can’t help it.” – Token Black

Top Line: Alex Cross is a poorly constructed, paint-by-number, PG-13 action flick.  The script is awful, the performances range from supremely disinterested to flat out terrible, and, worst of all, the action sequences are dull and rote. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: Tyler Perry fans and bored action movie fans. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Everyone else. 

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:41m – For all it’s manic pacing, it still manages to drag in places.

Actual Start Time: Showtime + 17 Minutes

Friday Morning Demographics: 30-40 people (which is a lot)

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity

All those things are true, and everything is done right up to the limit that the MPAA will allow, except for the language, which is as clean as the Thanksgiving Day parade broadcast. 

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Cicely Tyson – Perry’s Mom: 
    Gets in a few decent lines that try to add a little emotional reality to this movie.
  2. Yara Shahidi – Perry’s Daughter:
    Manages to emote in the few scenes she’s given.
  3. Kevin Hall – Perry’s Stand-in:
    Really this could be anybody, there isn’t a whole lot of actual acting in this movie, and since this guy was in a ton of it, why not?
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 (Probably slightly more fun this way than when it’s on basic cable until the end of time)
  • -1 (Not by much, though)

Final Score: 2

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • -2 (As forgettable as Hollywood formula movies come)
  • -1 (See above)
  • +1 (Mildly interesting as a case study in Tyler Perry’s megabucks career)

Final Score: 3

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • -2 (Doesn’t even try to pass)
  • -1 (Not one of the female characters even makes it to one dimensional)
  • -2 (And most of them meet gruesome deaths the horror of which is crassly papered over to maintain the precious PG-13 rating)

Final Score: 0

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Rob Cohen:
    Has a long track record directing these kind of mid-budget, low-concept action movies: Daylight (1996), xXx (2002), Stealth (2005), etcetera.  Probably the most fun movie on the list is Fast and Furious 1, which isn’t a good thing.

Writers:

  • Marc Moss:
    Has a two entry IMDb page, for writing this and for writing Along Came a Spider, the last Morgan Freeman Alex Cross movie.
  • Kerry Williamson:
    This is his only screenplay credit. 
  • James Patterson:
    The guy who wrote the Alex Cross novels. 

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 10% Top Critics: 0% Audience: 59%

Notes:

  • As you can see from the disparate Rotten Tomatoes scores, this kind of cookie cutter cop movie is almost designed to aggravate critics, but regular people who just want to shut off their brains for a couple of hours won’t care about all the specific problems.  
  • The script is godawful.  It’d be just plain bad given the number of ludicrously stupid ideas and cliched characters bumping into each other, but it makes that extra effort to be truly terrible by trying to cram serious emotional moments in cheek by jowl with bad comic relief and worse macho posturing. 
  • Oh, and it’s drowning in cliched, unexplored subplots.  Will the little girl play piano again?  Will Perry take that new job?  How’s the chief’s run for mayor going?  The movie contains all of these things and more, and treats each one to exactly three scenes so we can have face meltingly predictable setup-conflict-resolution on each. 
  • Tyler Perry is a very talented guy whose abilities do not extend to dramatic acting.  Despite his character going through an almost cartoonish amount of drama, his demeanor and facial expressions range somewhere between “annoyed in dentist’s waiting room”, “grimacing means I’m angry”, and “sleepy”. 
  • Matthew Fox is worse, though.  He never gets past petulant. 
  • There is quite a bit of heavy acting talent in the movie, but without exception it’s shuffled off to wretched little minor characters.  Edward Burns (Perry’s comedy sidekick) spends most of his time on screen going through the motions with a look on his face like “I am getting paid for this, right?  You guys know you can’t write me out of the sequel, it’s in my contract.” 
  • Jean Reno (creepy rich guy), Giancarlo Esposito (local mob boss who’s not all bad), and John McGinley (stereotypical top cop who yells a lot) all spend their brief time on screen looking just as disinterested as Burns. 
  • The movie ticks off character and action cliches like they’re on a checklist.  Perry and Burns even get the “you’re off the case, McBain!” speech from McGinley in one of the most perfunctory scenes in a very perfunctory movie.
  • Reno has to get through so many pieces of trite dialogue in his first meeting with Perry that they actually had two scenes with them back to back. 
  • And yes, the end fight scene involves someone getting kicked in the balls, why do you ask?
  • Seven Psychopaths joked about how movies like this don’t have anything for their female characters to do but get shot.  Well, Alex Cross goes them one better and has two of them tortured to death, albeit in a titillating, chicken shit, off screen PG-13 kind of way.
  • The movie starts with one of those really sloppy, network-TV level chase scenes where some nameless bad guy is fleeing from cops, shooting wildly, and eventually gets tackled by the hero.  That sets the tone for the movie’s many rote, nonsensical and bloodless fight sequences. 
  • That RPG explosion in the trailer?  It looks even faker on the big screen.

Bottom Line:

Alex Cross is as bland a Hollywood movie as you are likely to find.  Underneath it all there was probably a pretty cool murder/detective story, but that movie would need to be rated R, star someone else (Morgan Freeman comes to mind), and drop the noxious slapstick buddy comedy crap that resurfaces every fifteen minutes or so.  Instead, this is a beach novel with some dark ideas crammed into the bright, gooey and nonthreatening container of a formulaic Hollywood action movie.  Terrible things happen, but none of the characters really react to any of it.  There are lots of explosions and gun play, but none of it is memorable or exciting for the simple fact that it’s all so childishly unreal. 

The movie has three basic moods: action, sweetness/comedy, and deadly serious.  Unfortunately for the audience, it fails badly at the first and third, while still feeling the need (this is Tyler Perry, after all) to cram in the second.  Worse, it switches between the three so clumsily that it’s hard to enjoy any of them even in their limited capacity.  One moment they’re lamenting a gruesome death, and the next they’re back to being wise crackin’ good guys hot on the tail of their villain.  

There’s a reason Hollywood cranks out bland movies like this one, however.  They don’t cost much to make or market, and there’s enough audience interest in a bankable star (which Perry is) and a proven franchise (which Patterson’s Alex Cross novels are) to all but ensure that it won’t completely bomb, which is pretty much the only way it can lose money.  That’s also why the movie ends (and trust me, this is not a spoiler) with Perry and Burns heading off to bust more diabolical bad guys in the sequel. 

Assuming they keep it up, Alex Cross will eventually find its natural home as the Friday night kickoff to a Perry-as-Cross marathon weekend on TNT or FX sometime around 2019 or so. 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Looper:

The Man With the Iron Fists – Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! 

Flight – It’s bad enough when the trailer shows you the whole movie.  It’s worse when you see that trailer so many times that you begin to hate the damn thing before you’ve even seen it.

Parker – Transporter 4 still looks like plenty of dumb fun.  I’m not sure about Michael Chiklis as the bad guy, though. 

Lincoln – Get bent, Spielberg. 

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 – Thank fuck, it’s over. 

The Last Stand – California may have taken one for the team with that whole Schwarzenegger as governor for seven years thing.  He appears to have picked up in the unwatchable twilight of his career right where he left off.  The Golden State probably spared us several terrible movies.  (Note: I’m not saying it was worth it.)

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted October 19, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, South Park

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