“Alex Cross” is disappointing in both the thriller and book adaptation departments. Tyler Perry’s films are often lacking, but even he could craft a more effective screenplay than what was shot here. And James Patterson fans should surely cry foul, because this is hardly an adaptation of his bestselling novel Cross.
The film finds Detective Alex Cross(Perry) on the hunt for a serial killer(Matthew Fox), and that blasé description speaks the loudest. The film’s plot is completely unremarkable. Fox tries to elevate the poorly-written villain, but since his character seems to act and kill with no motivation, he mostly just seems to overact. When he stares into the camera head-on is when his performance feels the most exaggerated. Perry packs the same level of emotion into his turn as Alex Cross as he does in all of his other films. John C. McGinley, Jean Reno, Edward Burns and Cicely Tyson are all equally effective in supporting turns. It’s the screenplay that shoots them all in the foot.
To claim that “Alex Cross” is based on the novel Cross is pretty much a bold-faced lie. Patterson’s novel is more akin to Kiss the Girls or Along Came a Spider, and the fact that the film is rated PG-13 was a clear red flag that it would be deviating from its source material drastically. In the book, when The Butcher of Sligo is introduced about ten pages in, he brutally stabs a mobster to death after slicing off pieces of his nose and ear. Here, the villain is introduced in an underground cage fight. Such a location isn’t involved in the book at any point. This scene is the only time the name “The Butcher of Sligo” is even mentioned, and even the credits list the character as ‘Picasso.’ And no, the villain in Patterson’s novel did not draw pictures of his victims.
It becomes extremely difficult to not be put off by a film that claims to be based on a novel. The viewer has to force him/herself to look at the movie as an independent work, which is not easy. Thinking of the novel Cross brings to mind so much intriguing content to easily fill a two-hour motion picture. “Alex Cross” is a tight 101 minutes, which makes it feel short-changed and a bit simplistic. “The Fast and the Furious” director Rob Cohen packs in a lot of explosions and jumpy-camera fight sequences, which are staples of an action movie. However, Alex Cross has never really felt like an action hero. He’s a psychologist who is more comfortable using his mind than his trigger finger. The film touches on his ability to deduce, but then turns him into an action hero when it’s time to wrap things up in the final scene. Even if “Alex Cross” was sold as a brand new story based on the titular character, it still wouldn’t feel quite authentic.
Strictly looking at “Alex Cross” as an adaptation of a James Patterson novel, the film is a complete and utter failure. To say that it is based on characters created by James Patterson would be a far more honest description. To look at the film as a standalone thriller is to see a light-weight take on the serial killer/detective square-off. The villain is supposed to be a ruthless assassin, but not once does the character strike any sort of fear into the viewer. “Alex Cross” is a safe thriller, therefore completely missing the objective of the genre it resides in. Though, judging by the relatively crowded theater during a Saturday matinee, safe movies are just what a lot of people are looking for. But then why bother spending money at the box office? Certainly watching a beloved Blu-Ray or DVD at home would offer the same safety net without the high cost of snacks. Anyone who goes to the theater looking to see fresh storytelling can steer clear of this one.