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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 01:03 am

Perry gets Cross-ed up

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While I appreciate Tyler Perry’s desire to branch out from his “Medea” films, which have put him on the map as far as the movie community is concerned, I couldn’t imagine a worse breakout effort than his current feature Alex Cross. Based loosely on the twelfth novel in James Patterson’s best selling series that revolves around the title character, the movie does the book and its protagonist a disservice. It is rife with plot twists that are far too ridiculous to swallow as well as an antagonist whose motivation remains unclear throughout.

Backing up from the two previous Cross films, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls – both starring Morgan Freeman as Patterson’s hero – director Rob Cohen sets out to give us an origin tale of sorts as the titular detective is in service of the Detroit Police Department. With his loyal partner Tommy (Ed Burns), the duo is charged with tracking down a sadistic assassin named Picasso (a dangerously gaunt Matthew Fox) who’s out to take down Leon Mercier (Jean Reno), a French gazillionaire who is intent on revitalizing the Motor City.

Not really sure why the killer wants to knock off the tycoon, it seems as though screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson were hoping viewers weren’t going to get hung up on such details as they offer no logical explanation. No background is given on the killer himself, who’s a whackadoodle simply because it’s expected of serial killers and it plays well on screen. Actually, it doesn’t, as Fox is so over the top that I expected him to have a stroke at any minute. He delivers his dialogue with wide-eyed menace and vein popping intensity. When Picasso ends up torturing Tommy’s girlfriend to death and callously killing Cross’ pregnant wife, it’s a calculated plot device used to get our two heroes to hit the vigilante trail and nothing more. There’s no rhyme or reason to his actions and as such, the viewer ends up feeling grossly manipulated as opposed to intrigued by the assassin and what motivates him.

Equally insulting is the way Cross is able to magically deduce his prey’s intentions from clues that seemingly fall out of the sky. How he knew to fold one of Picasso’s drawings in three to reveal a clue to his next crime is beyond me, and that he’s able to figure out that the assassin is going to take out city hall from a moving transit train is impossible. I don’t mind a mystery that fools me as long as it offers a logical solution to its questions in the end. What I can’t stand is a film that cheats, bringing in answers from out of left field that eschew any sort of logic. This is a prime example of lazy writing and is inexcusable in a production of this sort.

That being said, Perry isn’t half bad here, and if given the opportunity could develop into a decent character actor. Regrettably, he has the misfortune of following in Freeman’s footsteps and having to deal with poorly written material. Hopefully, this misstep will not cause him to be banished permanently to the land of Madea. I think he has much more to offer, and I’d like to see him get the opportunity to show it.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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