A movie about a brilliant detective has no business being this dumb.
And not to put too fine a point on it — this dumb.
One accurate indicator of the dismal intelligence behind Alex Cross is a ridiculous bit of dialogue that implores the title character to “come on, THINK!” as if logic and reason were analogous to trying harder during a workout. Based on the novel Cross by James Patterson, this film version is distinguished by its near-metaphysical stupidity.
To give but one example, the film’s main killer (Matthew Fox) is patted down before being allowed by bodyguards to go upstairs with the woman who just watched him dismantle a fighter in an MMA ring. Guns aren't necessary when the guy’s hands might as well be registered as deadly weapons.
Tyler Perry acts earnestly, but he just can’t get a handle on the role previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Our introduction to Perry’s Cross (a Detroit detective) finds him chasing a bad guy and easily dispatching him in a one-on-one confrontation — not the most well-thought-out way to introduce a character supposedly distinguished by his smarts.
Fox (Lost, Speed Racer) plays Cross’s insane, deadly rival — known as "Picasso" — with twitchy abandon, popping his eyes and tensing his neck. His character mocks the detective’s attempts at insight as “pop psychology” even as he acts like a killer borne of a shallow pop-psych mindset. Fox's diet and exercise regimen has rendered him so thin, it emphasizes his muscles while his face looks excessively gaunt. Among the supporting role players, the most notable for all the wrong reasons is John C. McGinley, who seems to think he’s in a Police Academy movie, offering a performance that is closer to his sarcastic doctor from TV’s Scrubs than anything that should have been conceived for an actioner.
Cross and his two partners (played by Edward Burns and Rachel Nichols) are soon chasing Fox’s methodical, sadistic killer, who is working for an unknown employer. Unknown unless you’re paying attention, in which case the film’s other bad guy is instantly recognizable long before Cross and his partners figure it out.
Burns’s Tommy plays foil to Cross’s genius — they enter a crime scene, Tommy rushes to the wrong conclusion, and Cross calmly offers the correct explanation, one that his partner can’t believe. Like Sherlock Holmes, Cross can instantly assess how a crime unfolded and how many were involved. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, a self-aware genius with a complex nature, Cross is simply a decent guy. Nice enough — and entirely uninteresting.
And, on further reflection, not altogether decent. When the “this time it’s personal” moment occurs in the film, Cross shows he’s not above breaking the law for vengeance, including tampering with police evidence and beating up other cops.
Hack director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) adds little to these dull proceedings, unable or uninterested in bringing any atmosphere to a film overwhelmed by characters and filmmakers behaving in idiotic ways. Cross figures out Picasso's next victim with what amounts to a Mad Fold-In. Cohen shows Picasso instantly materializing in places — including a water conduit in a building — without giving us a clue as to how he got there. Not even Alex Cross himself could solve a movie this bad.