Alex Cross Or Madea Men

Ash Isaac

I blame Hannibal Lecter. Not for the cannibalism, murder or other associated heinous acts, but for spawning a generation of films all seeking to replicate the award-winning chemistry and relationship he shared with Clarice Starling. One of the latest pretenders to Lecter’s gruesome crown is Alex Cross, himself an established figure in the literary and celluloid crime genres thanks to James Patterson’s glut of Cross novels. In Alex Cross, Tyler Perry takes up the role vacated by Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Fox plays the villain Picasso, taking up a role vacated by an actor with more sense and a better agent.

Alex Cross, devoted family man, brilliant criminal psychologist, dedicated Detroit cop, all-round bore. He’s the American equivalent of Sherlock, a man with an unrivalled capacity for ratiocination who “can tell if you had scrambled eggs from a hundred yards away”. A talent that no doubt comes in handy for tracking down serial killers. We watch as Cross goes about his normal business, cracking perp’s skulls, impressing colleagues with his powers of deduction, spending time with his children, “Kriss” and “Double”, and just generally being a smug bastard.

Meanwhile, a professional assassin calling himself “The Butcher of Sligo” is indulging in a spot of MMA cage-fighting. After viciously pummelling his opponent to a bloodied pulp he is invited to the home of businesswoman Fan Yau who decides for some reason that the man she has just witnessed brutally breaking the bones of another human being is potential boyfriend material or, at the very least, great one night stand material. Yep, you guessed it, it turns out he’s actually a psychotic murderer who proceeds to torture and kill her.

Cross is brought in on the case and discovers a charcoal sketch made by the killer of Fan Yau as well as a ciphered clue as to his next victim. Oh, the hubris of the deranged killer now dubbed “Picasso”. Cross races to protect Picasso’s next target and unravels a conspiracy that involves billionaire Giles Mercier (Jean Reno) who has also been marked for death by Picasso. The hitman is accosted by Cross and his team before he is able to make a move on his target and they manage to wound the fleeing Picasso.

This only serves to infuriate the vengeful Picasso, and there is a sweaty montage of him performing angry pull-ups and doing a spot of angry sketching of people he hates. If the drawing is supposed to be some form of cathartic therapy then it clearly doesn’t work as Picasso proceeds to gruesomely kill one of Cross’s colleagues before gunning down Cross’s pregnant wife. That’s right… shit just got personal. Cross decides he must take matters into his own hands and dish out some bullet-shaped retribution.

In the film’s final showdown Picasso hijacks a train and uses it as a platform to blow up half a city block and incinerate his main target, Mercier. Cross hunts Picasso down to an old abandoned theatre where they participate in a spot of their very own histrionics before Cross eventually throws Picasso to his death from the roof of the theatre, but not before the villain is able to spit out, “I made you!” to Cross. Quite.

To say that Alex Cross is formulaic is a wild understatement, but it’s the level of stereotyping that propels it firmly into ‘underwhelming’ categorisation. We have all the classic cop tropes and clichés – partner who’s also a best friend, tragedy of losing a loved one, killer with an odd fetish, cop and killer speaking on the phone to spar verbally, the list goes on. There’s lots of obligatory but not a lot of originality which is not a bad thing as long as you can still manage to be entertaining and engaging enough.

Tyler Perry puts in a decent shift considering his normal screen persona involves dressing up as a septuagenarian woman, and Matthew Fox, trying to scrub himself clean of the Lost stain, is watchable enough as the unhinged Picasso. They’re certainly no Starling and Lecter, or Holmes and Moriarty however. Alex Cross just goes to prove the old adage right – a hero is only ever as good as the villain you set against him.

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.